HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1.7 million adults develop sepsis yearly, with 270,000 annual deaths.
"Sepsis is a state of panic your body goes into where everything becomes inflamed, blood vessels are leaking and organs can start to fail," said Dr. Daniel Mulcrone, a critical care intensivist and director of the Medical and Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City.
Without quick action, sepsis shock can cause organ failure, tissue damage or death within hours.
"We are trained to notice changes that can at times be fairly subtle," Mulcrone said.
Since the signs are so slight, Sentara is now using artificial technology called the Sepsis Sniffer, developed by the Mayo Clinic in 2016. It is a predictive tool that can alert medical staff faster for life-saving intervention.
"It's a link to the patient's electronic medical record, and so as vital signs are entered in the record, the sepsis sniffer is always monitoring for changes," Mulcrone said. "It looks at heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate."
The sepsis sniffer is basically is an algorithm that processes more than 4,000 patient data points in real-time to predict the potentially lethal infection.
"It assigns a risk score to each individual patient, and if that risk score changes, that prompts the evaluation," Mulcrone said.
Mulcrone says the sepsis sniffer is particularly helpful in patients who have contracted COVID-19, a major contributor of sepsis.
"The development of this tool is coinciding with the national pandemic. It's playing an early role in detection for the patient," he said.
Sentara has been using the tool for about a year.