Could Vitamin C Infusions save lives?
by Lisa DiFalco
Sepsis kills 258,000 Americans annually. Those people unfortunate enough to develop severe sepsis run a 40 percent risk of death and as many as 50 percent of survivors struggle with post-sepsis syndrome. Treatment for sepsis is most effective when patients are in the early stages of the condition. Healthcare workers, nurses, administration, families and patients are concerned about this condition that can occur from playground scrapes, a diabetic-related illness or after a routine surgical procedure and can interfere with healing and recovery. However, there may be hope.
According to NPR, use of intravenous vitamin C may provide positive results in the treatment of sepsis in patients. Dr. Paul Marik began using a special cocktail in 2016 with sepsis patients and has continued with many other patients due to surprisingly positive results. In addition, a clinical trial involving vitamin C infusions for sepsis treatment is underway.
Patients may benefit from new approaches to sepsis treatment which may result in increased survival rates. But they are not alone. Families and hospital administrators may also be interested in learning about effective treatments for sepsis. Sepsis has been known as “the most expensive in-patient cost” with costs related to sepsis care nearing $24 billion annually. More effective treatments may help reduce sepsis-related treatment costs. Get an overview of sepsis and an important update on exciting treatment developments.
An Overview of Sepsis
There are various definitions for sepsis. Two medical definitions for the condition are:
“[T]he presence of pathogenic organisms or their toxins in the blood or tissues.”
“[T]he poisoned condition resulting from the presence of pathogens or their toxins as in septicemia.”
A diagnosis of sepsis is determined when a patient develops clinical signs of systemic inflammation or infection. Sepsis symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion and sleepiness
- Pale or discolored skin
- Extreme discomfort
- Shivering, cold or fever
The combination of symptoms and the feelings from a person that they might die may indicate sepsis. Family members and individuals should seek medical treatment or dial 911 in such a situation. Severe sepsis often involves organ dysfunction, altered cerebral function, lactic acidosis, oliguria and hypoxemia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, current treatments and intervention may include:
- Broad-spectrum antibiotics
- Low doses of corticosteroids
- Supportive care
Sepsis treatment depends upon the stage of sepsis seen in a patient. Patients with severe sepsis may have to spend time in an intensive care unit. New approaches and treatments are welcomed by the medical community. There may be experimental approaches to sepsis treatment that improve survival rates in patients with the condition.
New Approach to Sepsis Treatment
According to the experiences of Dr. Paul Marik, intravenous vitamin C may offer some benefit. Marik runs the intensive care unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. A woman with severe sepsis was brought in for treatment for severe sepsis. She was on the verge of death and showed multiple organ failure. As Marik said:
“Her kidneys weren’t working. Her lungs weren’t working. She was going to die. In a situation like this, you start thinking out of the box.”
A recent study showed moderate success in treating individuals with sepsis with intravenous vitamin C. Marik decided on a low dose of corticosteroids with thiamine within his mix. Marik was not expecting a recovery. He said:
“I was expecting the next morning when I came to work she would be dead. But when I walked in the next morning, I got the shock of my life.”
The 48-year-old woman was recovering.
He tried the treatment on two additional patients with sepsis. Both showed positive results. He began treating such patients with his vitamin and steroid infusion. He wrote up his results after treating 50 patients. What was remarkable was that only four of the patients treated died and each of those deaths were due to the underlying disease and not the result of sepsis.
This is not the standard protocol to evaluate new treatments. However, Marik decided that the results from his treatment would best serve his patients. He went on to treat approximately 150 patients. Only one person died from sepsis.
Physicians and healthcare professionals want to know of an effective treatment for sepsis. Patients and families would greatly benefit. However, these initial treatments and positive results need to be supported by additional research. As Dr. Craig Coopersmith, surgery professor at Emory University School of Medicine, said:
“If it turns out in further studies that this is true, and we can validate it, then this will be an unbelievable huge deal. But right now we should treat it as a preliminary deal that needs to be validated.”
Currently a study is underway, funded through a grant from the NIH for $3.2 million to review the use of vitamin C to treat sepsis. It will be carefully controlled and conducted across several universities. Results from the study may be available at the end of 2018. Vitamin C Infusion for Treatment in Sepsis Induced Acute Lung Injury (CITRIS-ALI) is sponsored by the Virginia Commonwealth University in collaboration with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This clinical trial is randomized and uses double blind masking as part of its protocol.
What are the Best Practices in Treating Sepsis?
When healthcare professionals share their experiences in treating sepsis, it can add to the body of research and treatment options available. Dr. Marik and clinical trials on vitamin C infusions from the Virginia Commonwealth University and NHLBI may help develop the collective understanding of how intravenous infusions of vitamin C may impact patient health when compared to taking the vitamin orally. Duplication of positive results using standard protocols is needed for any acceptance of a novel approach to sepsis treatment. Patients and their families will benefit from such an approach that may increase sepsis survival rates.