Sepsis and septic shock-related muscle damage may be repairable by stem cell therapy, according to new findings. Sepsis is an inflammatory response to a severe infection and affects nearly 28 million people worldwide, claiming the lives of eight million. In those who survive sepsis, life-long complications may occur, which are not only debilitating, but can affect a person’s day to day life. A main complication of sepsis is loss of muscular capacity, which researchers have now aimed to combat.
The findings come from the Institut Pasteur Human Histopathology and Animal Models Unit, where researchers looked at the effects of sepsis on muscle stem cells. The researchers found that after sepsis, available mitochondria – a cells powerhouse – only provide satellite cells with enough energy for basic function, but nothing more to divide and differentiate into different muscle cells that are required for muscle growth and repair.
The findings prompted researchers to explore the possibility of using mesenchymal stem cell transplantation as a potential avenue for therapy. Mesenchymal stem cells are easily cultured in laboratories and, due to their properties, are great for cell therapy transplants to repair degenerative or traumatic lesions. Mesenchymal cells are able to fully restore metabolic and division capabilities of satellite cells.
Previous study links post-sepsis survival to mental and physical decline in older patients
Previous research found that seniors who experienced sepsis were more likely to experience mental or physical decline. Seniors are at a higher risk for sepsis due to their weaker immune systems, and even though survival from sepsis is more and more common, life-long complications may still arise.
The researchers reviewed data from 1,194 patients who were hospitalized for severe sepsis. Additionally, they found 9,223 patients who were assessed for cognitive and physical function.
Of the group, 516 survived sepsis and 4,517 were hospitalized, not for sepsis, but who partook in a follow-up survey. The researchers found that 60 percent of the hospitalizations due to severe sepsis were also linked with worsened cognitive functioning and physical functioning. The researchers concluded the rate of risk was 3.3 times higher to experience cognitive and physical impairment in those who survive severe sepsis.
Long-term effects of sepsis
With the help of medical advancement, more people are not only surviving sepsis, but are living normal lives post-sepsis as well. However, there are still many cases of life-long complications that can occur after sepsis.
Long-term effects of sepsis are more common in individuals who had a chronic illness prior to diagnosis, and these individuals may have a higher likelihood of experiencing organ failure. For example, if a person who already has kidney failure develops sepsis, they may require dialysis for the rest of their lives.
Sepsis can also permanently impede on a person’s immune system, which sets them up to easily develop other illnesses. Lastly, having sepsis increases risk of mortality, even many years after the infection has been resolved.
Some individuals may experience post-sepsis syndrome, which includes the following symptoms:
- Insomnia, difficulty with sleep
- Nightmares, vivid hallucinations
- Disabling muscle and joint pain
- Decreased muscle
- Decreased mental cognitive ability
- Loss of self-esteem
- Organ dysfunction
Treatment of sepsis
Sepsis treatment involves treating the underlying infection and treating any affected organs in order to reduce the risk of organ failure. If caught early enough, your doctor will put you on antibiotics and you can easily treat sepsis at home.
If sepsis becomes severe or you endure septic-shock (a condition that brings upon extremely low blood pressure), emergency medical attention is required and you may need to stay in a hospital to receive treatment.
The list of treatment options to treat sepsis includes:
- Intravenous fluids
- Raising blood pressure
- Treating source of infection
- Blood transfusion
- Mechanical ventilation
Preventative tips to manage post-sepsis recovery
Recovery from sepsis begins in the hospital, where you can slowly work your way back to moving around and taking care of personal duties, such as bathing, showering, or walking around. Rehabilitation is necessary to bring you back as close to your normal health prior to sepsis.
When you are finally released from the hospital, the following at-home care suggestions can help further push you towards recovery.
- Set small goals for yourself when it comes to daily tasks, and don’t be discouraged that you may not be able to fully do everything you did before.
- Rest and rebuild strength.
- Discuss feelings with family and friends – this can ward off depression.
- Learn about sepsis and understand what happened and what you have just been through.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- If you’re up to it, try exercising.
- Make a list of questions to ask your doctor when it comes down to your follow-up.
With the help from your doctor, nurses, family and friends, you can easily adjust after sepsis and work your way back to living a normal life with minimal complications.
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