Sepsis is a serious medical condition that can result in organ damage or death when the body's immune system has a severe response to an infection.
If sepsis is suspected, seek medical attention immediately.
The body is designed to fight infections that may invade the body. In some cases, the body has an abnromal response and can cause inflamation that may damage the cells in the body. When this happens, blood clots may start to form and some of the blood vessels may start to leak causing the blood pressure to drop. A drop in blood pressure can cause organ damage and possible death by not allowing oxygen and nutrients to reach organs.
Symptoms vary depending on severity and can appear to be mild at first before rapidly becoming worse. Symptoms and signs of sepsis can include:
- Fever or abnormally low temperature
- Trouble breathing
- Rapid heart rate and breathing rate
- Low blood pressure
- Descreased urine output
Quick diagnose is the key to ensuring minimal organ damage or death will be avoided. To diagnose sepsis, a healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. He or she will do a physical exam. Some of the symptoms of early sepsis are the same as other medical conditions. This can make sepsis hard to diagnose in its early stages. An exam of the heart, lungs, and abdomen are needed to help diagnose. Your healthcare provider may order a urine test, blood test, and radiology scans to learn more about the infection and check kidney function.
Sepsis can affect people of all ages, but children and older adults are at highest risk. Sepsis never happens on its own. It always starts with an infection somewhere in your body, such as:
- Lung infection
- Urinary tract infection
- Skin infection
- Abdominal infection (like from appendicitis, or an infected gallbladder)
People with the following conditions are at a higher risk of developing sepsis as the condition impairs the body's ability to fight infections properly:
- Liver disease
- Conditions that affect the immune system
Treatment is often done in a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) to closely monitor your condition. Vital signs such as heart rate will be constantly watched. Blood and urine tests will be done often. Your condition will be watched and your treatment adjusted as often as needed.
The source of the infection must be treated. To do this, your healthcare provider will likely use medicines. You will receive several treatments at once. Antibiotics will be given until the results from cultures are available within 48 to 72 hours. In some cases, surgical procedures may be performed to clear out the infection. During your treatment, you may need to wear an oxygen mask to ensure your body is receiving enough oxygen. Other treatments may include, IV fluids, breathing tubes, dialysis, and insulin therapy.
Many people survive sepsis without lasting complications. Other people may have serious problems including permanent organ damage.
Most people with mild sepsis do recover. But even with intense treatment, some people die from sepsis. Up to half of all people with severe sepsis will die from it.
Call or see a healthcare provider right away if you or someone else has symptoms of sepsis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve the chances of a good recovery.
After recovery, you may be more susceptible to infections and other illnesses. Call or see your healthcare provider at the first signs of an infection or illness.
J.C. Blair has a multi-disciplinary team that is specially trained to respond to and treat sepsis. If sepsis is suspected, staff members can call CODE SEPSIS to alert staff members of the possible condition, order all necessary tests, and begin treatment immediately. To learn more about sepsis, visit www.sepsis.org.