Sepsis

Sepsis is a serious or a life-threatening condition due to an infection in your blood. This occurs when the chemicals released by the body in response to immune reaction triggers the inflammatory processes throughout your body.

Approximately 50 to 60 percent of people diagnosed with sepsis can recover completely. The recovery depends on the severity of sepsis and the person’s overall health.

Though it is a life-threatening complication, early treatment with antibiotics and intravenous fluids can improve the chances of survival.

Signs and symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of sepsis include a high (above 101 F) or a low body temperature (below 96.8 F), rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and edema.

In early stages or during severe sepsis, the symptoms seen are rapid heart rate, decreased urination and increased blood sugar. In later stages or during septic shock, the signs include confusion, metabolic acidosis, decreased blood pressure, decreased cardiac output, and abnormal blood clotting.

Causes

The cause of sepsis is a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Gram-positive bacteria, mostly staphylococci are the common cause of infection. The infection originates in the lungs (pneumonia), the abdomen (abdominal infection), bloodstream (bacteremia) or the kidneys (kidney infection). The common site of origin of infection is lungs.

Risk factors

Sepsis is seen mostly in older adults, infants, and individuals with weakened or compromised immune system. Using invasive devices such as catheters or breathing tubes and having wounds, burns, or injuries increase the risk of sepsis.

Complications

The sepsis may progress to septic shock due to decreased blood pressure. In this condition, there may be severe bruising and bleeding leading to tissue damage, organ failure and formation of gangrene. This condition is a life-threatening complication.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of sepsis includes:

  • Blood tests: It involves measurement of white blood cell (WBC) count, serum lactate and electrolytes. Culture tests are also performed to determine antibiotic treatment.
  • Urinalysis: Urine tests are done to evaluate a urinary tract infection.
  • Imaging tests: X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound scans are performed to visualise the organs and determine the cause the sepsis.

Treatment

Early diagnosis and prompt aggressive treatment for sepsis is essential to increase chances of survival. The treatment of sepsis usually includes the use of antibiotics at home if it is detected in early stages. Individuals who are diagnosed early can recover completely.

Individuals with severe sepsis and septic shock require admission into intensive care unit (ICU).Treatment with intravenous antibiotics should be initiated immediately within six hours of admission. Initially broad-spectrum antibiotics (act on most of the bacteria) are given and after obtaining the laboratory reports, bacteria specific antibiotic is prescribed. If blood pressure is low during treatment, your doctor may prescribe vasopressors. Corticosteroids can also be given to reduce inflammation.

Intravenous fluids are given to restore fluid volume. This helps to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, and urine output.

Apart from the administration of medication, there is a requirement of draining infected fluids and managing organ dysfunction. The management may involve hemodialysis in cases of kidney dysfunction, ventilation in case lung dysfunction, and blood products transfusion in cases of circulatory failure. If the blood sugar levels are high, your doctor recommends administration of insulin.