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Life after sepsis

After being discharged from the ICU, life for sepsis survivors is not always easy. For some, they will experience a full recovery with minimal reminisce of the illness. For others, they are not as lucky. Some survivors may have very distinct reminders of their battle against sepsis such as amputated limbs, or reliance on a ventilator or dialysis machine due to organ damage. Sepsis survivors are at a higher risk of enduring post-traumatic stress disorder, decreased cognitive function and physical disabilities. Studies have shown that there is a 7% - 43% mortality rate among sepsis survivors within one year of hospital discharge.


The effects of sepsis can be devastating and life-long. Rehabilitation normally starts in the ICU by helping the patient to move around and take care of themselves again. For example, rehabilitation may start by relearning how to sit upright, get out of bed or wash on their own. Many sepsis survivors experience blood clots or poor circulation during their fight against sepsis and as a result, they may have limbs amputated. ICU physiotherapists, specialized in the care of recovering patients, can provide support and exercises to help ensure the best recovery possible. Once a patient has shown enough progress they may be transferred to the general ward for further monitoring and rehabilitation before they return home.

Post-Sepsis Syndrome 

Post-sepsis syndrome (PSS) is the term used to describe the group of long-term problems that some people experience while recovering from sepsis. These problems begin to occur during the rehabilitation period and may not become apparent for several weeks (post-sepsis). After spending significant time in the ICU, it can take a significant toll on a person physically, emotionally and psychologically. Not everyone who has suffered from sepsis experiences PSS nor will one experience all symptoms, as it is often dependent on the severity and length of time spent in the ICU.  The following are the physical, psychological and emotional problems associated with PSS.


        • Lethargy/excessive tiredness
        • Poor mobility/muscle weakness
        • Shortness of breath/chest pains
        • Swollen limbs (excessive fluid in the tissues)
        • Joint pains
        • Insomnia (due to pain/shortness of breath)
        • Hair loss
        • Dry/flaking skin and nails
        • Taste changes
        • Poor appetite
        • Changes in vision
        • Changes in sensation of limbs
        • Repeated infections
        • Reduced kidney function

Psychological and emotional:

        • Anxiety/fear of sepsis recurring
        • Depression
        • Flashbacks
        • Nightmares
        • Insomnia (due to stress or anxiety)
        • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
        • Poor concentration
        • Short term memory loss

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