What is Sepsis?


Sepsis is a condition caused by an overwhelming immune response to infection. The response results in inflammation and impaired blood flow. The body begins to cause damage to its own organs and tissues. Severe sepsis can lead to septic shock, multiple organ failure, and death. Early detection and treatment is paramount to survival.



Cottage Health System has been ahead of the curve in aggressively looking for, and proactively treating sepsis, the leading cause of death in US hospitals.


Approximately 750,000 Americans are stricken with sepsis each year, and that number is growing.


The national mortality rate in these cases is estimated at 25–30 percent. Since 2008, the sepsis mortality rate at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital has been substantially lower, at 5.6 percent.


Cottage’s success in battling sepsis — and its most severe form, septic shock — is due largely to a unique protocol implemented in 2005. Few other hospitals in the nation have such high survival rates for sepsis patients.


At Cottage, more than 80% of patients with septic shock survive. The national average is approximately 64%.


Nurses and resident physicians are specially trained to identify septic patients, as they did in Roman’s case, and initiate a sequence of orders that includes expedited critical lab tests, immediate IV fluids and medication. The sepsis protocol developed at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was put in practice at Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospitals, with similar dramatic increases in survival rates.


Sepsis is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention – especially if you have a diagnosed or suspected infection – if you feel sick and have any of these symptoms:

  • Extreme weakness, dizziness or confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and chills
  • Excessive thirst
    Signs of compromised organ function: difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, low urine output

Infection always comes before sepsis. Always practice good hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of germs, and seek medical attention for any illness that seems to be unusual in its lingering or worsening.


Read more about sepsis, and see data on Cottage's success rates in treating sepsis patients.



 << Back to Cottage Magazine