Sepsis and Bedsores in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

Sepsis and Bedsores in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities


Sepsis is a life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when the body’s response to infection goes awry, leading to widespread inflammation and organ dysfunction. While infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections are commonly associated with sepsis, lesser-known sources, like bedsores, can also trigger this deadly condition. In this article, we will explore the various causes of sepsis, with a specific focus on how bedsores can be a significant contributing factor. Bedsores are often the basis for elder and nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits, including in Georgia and North Carolina, because they are often a source of infection, sepsis, septic shock, and wrongful death. 

Common Causes of Sepsis

Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections are the most prevalent causes of sepsis. These can include infections of the respiratory system (pneumonia), urinary tract infections (UTIs), and infections related to surgical procedures. An open bedsore can serve as a portal for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and evolve into sepsis, septic shock, and death.

Viral Infections: Although less common than bacterial infections, viral infections like influenza and COVID-19 can also lead to sepsis, especially in individuals with compromised immune systems.

Fungal Infections: Sepsis can result from severe fungal infections, such as invasive candidiasis or aspergillosis, which may occur in individuals with weakened immune systems.

Parasitic Infections: Certain parasitic infections, such as malaria, can trigger sepsis when left untreated or mismanaged.

Infections from Medical Devices: Intravenous (IV) lines, urinary catheters, and ventilators can introduce pathogens into the body, increasing the risk of infection and subsequent sepsis.

Gastrointestinal Infections: Infections of the gastrointestinal tract, like diverticulitis or appendicitis, can lead to sepsis if not promptly diagnosed and treated.

Bedsores and Sepsis

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or pressure injuries, are localized injuries to the skin and/or underlying tissue. They typically develop when prolonged pressure restricts blood flow to a specific area of the body, causing tissue damage. While bedsores themselves may not seem directly linked to sepsis, they can serve as a gateway for infection, potentially leading to sepsis in vulnerable individuals, particularly in healthcare settings. 

Here’s how:

Break in Skin Integrity: Bedsores often result in open wounds, providing an entry point for bacteria and other pathogens. When these microorganisms invade the body, they can cause localized infections that, if left unmanaged or untreated, may progress to sepsis.

Weakened Immune Response: Individuals with bedsores may have compromised immune systems due to factors such as malnutrition or underlying health conditions. This weakened defense mechanism makes them more susceptible to infection and sepsis. The importance of preventing these wounds in the first place is very important: once a nursing home lets a resident get a bedsore, the bedsore itself requires additional nutrition, and this can compound nutrition issues.

Prolonged Hospital Stays: Patients with bedsores often require extended hospitalization, increasing their exposure to hospital-acquired infections, which can lead to sepsis.

Preventing Sepsis in Individuals with Bedsores

Preventing sepsis in individuals with bedsores requires a multifaceted approach:

Early Detection: Regular assessments of bedsores are essential to catch signs of infection early. These assessments should include monitoring for redness, swelling, warmth, foul odor, or changes in wound appearance.

Proper Wound Care: Effective wound care is crucial to maintain skin integrity. It involves keeping the wound clean, dressing changes, and, in some cases, debridement to remove dead tissue. Regularly tracking and documenting these things along with the characteristics of the bedsore (size, etc.) is also very important and the failure to do this in the nursing home is generally negligence. 

Infection Control: Nursing homes and assisted living facilities must maintain stringent infection control practices, including proper hand hygiene, to prevent the spread of pathogens.

Nutritional Support: Adequate nutrition is essential to support the body’s immune system. Malnourished individuals are more susceptible to infections. Nursing homes must be vigilant in ensuring their residents are getting proper nutrition.

Pressure Relief: Preventing bedsores in the first place is the most effective way to avoid sepsis related to bedsores. This involves regularly repositioning bedridden or immobile patients, using specialized pressure-relief mattresses and cushions, and ensuring proper skin care.


Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can arise from various sources of infection, including bedsores. Healthcare providers and caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities  must remain vigilant in monitoring and managing bedsores to prevent complications such as infections and sepsis. Early detection, effective wound care, infection control, and proper nutrition are crucial components of preventing sepsis in individuals with bedsores, ultimately improving their chances of recovery and survival. 

More information about sepsis and pressure ulcers/bedsores can be found at the Sepsis Alliance.

Attorney Thomas W. Pleasant has focused on handling nursing home cases and assisted living cases for over 16 years, and only gets paid if there is a money recovery. If you need help evaluating a serious injury or wrongful death case from a nursing home or assisted living stay, contact Pleasant Law, PLLC for a free case evaluation.


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