New guidelines to prevent repeat of Savita tragedy
Published 16/08/2014 | 02:30
DOCTORS have been issued with new guidelines aimed at saving the life of pregnant women suffering the same kind of killer infection that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar two years ago.
The new advice covers the potentially life-threatening condition sepsis, a form of blood poisoning triggered by infection, which, if untreated, can eventually lead to multiple organ failure and death. Mrs Halappanavar died from the knock-on effects of sepsis in Galway University Hospital in late 2012, a week after her admission due to suffering a miscarriage in the 17th week of her pregnancy.
The new guidelines are particularly specific about care of a woman with suspected sepsis in the second trimester of pregnancy, which starts in the 14th week.
They say while miscarriage at this time is rare, doctors may need to take "immediate steps" to deliver the baby if sepsis is suspected.
The guide clears the way to ensure doctors should be in no doubt about the priority to save a pregnant woman's life, even in cases where the foetus still has a heartbeat present.
The guidelines - from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the HSE - said there needed to be a full clinical assessment of a pregnant woman at risk of miscarriage or following the diagnosis of miscarriage. A review of the death of Mrs Halappanavar, conducted by a seven-member panel, found that she was insufficiently monitored and assessed. Her condition was eventually diagnosed too late.
Sepsis is often diagnosed based on simple measurements such as temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and blood test. Other tests may help determine the type of infection, where it is located and which body functions have been affected. Treatment of sepsis varies depending on the site and cause of the initial infection, the organs affected and the extent of any damage.
If the sepsis is severe or the patient develops septic shock - when blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level - emergency hospital treatment is needed.
It may require admission to an intensive care unit to support any affected body functions, such as breathing or blood circulation, while being treated.