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Why is it so important to keep track of vital signs?

Why is it so important to keep track of vital signs?

A:
Nurses in hospitals and nursing homes are supposed to keep track of your vital signs on a regular basis. If they don’t, you or a loved one could actually die unnecessarily. “Vital” means “necessary to the maintenance of life.” They mean it. If healthcare providers know soon enough after your vital signs start to become abnormal they can take action to keep you alive. This, of course, requires that the nurses do a good job of consistently and frequently taking your vital signs. If the nurses do not do it, complain to the supervisor.

Vital signs include body temperature, respiration rate, blood pressure, and heart rate. Normal body signs are different depending on age, weight and physical condition. Normal body temperature, of course, is 98.6°F although the normal range is between 97.8°F and 99.1°F. Normal respiration rate, which is the number of times you take a breath in a minute, is 12-18. Normal heart rate at rest is 60-80 beats per minute. A normal blood pressure is 120/80 but varies substantially from person to person.

Here is an example of why it is so important to keep track of vital signs. Serious infections are now more and more frequent in nursing homes and hospitals. A too frequent cause of death in nursing home residents is a condition known as “SIRS,” that can be brought on by an infection. “SIRS” stands for a systemic inflammatory response syndrome. This condition is an emergency that must be dealt with immediately in an intensive care setting. Symptoms include abnormal vital signs with a body temperature below 96.8°F or above 100.4°F, heart rate more than 90 beats per minute, and a respiratory rate more than 20. SIRS is often accompanied by organ failure.

If the condition is recognized soon enough and dealt with appropriately, you could live through it. If not recognized soon, it is seriously life-threatening. For more information see the Wikipedia entry for SIRS. If you have suffered from SIRS, you may be able to receive compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact us now.


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