Sepsis, one type of the condition known as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), is a serious illness of the bloodstream caused by toxin-producing bacteria. Though the bacterial infection can originate from anywhere in the body, some common locations include:
When a patient acquires sepsis while hospitalized for the treatment of another medical condition, common sources of infection include surgical wounds, surgical drains, intravenous lines and areas of skin breakdown (e.g., bedsores). In the event of infection, these sources would be removed. Sepsis is often a life-threatening illness, particularly when it affects people with co-existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems. In fact, the mortality rate in these delicate cases can be as high as 60 percent. Symptoms of sepsis include:
Sepsis causes a severe drop in blood pressure, which can ultimately result in shock. The body's response to becoming septic is for major organ systems–including the kidneys, liver, lungs and central nervous system–to begin shutting down. When sepsis is suspected, a blood culture is often helpful in confirming the diagnosis. As a further precaution, however, additional tests may be performed to reinforce the findings, as a false negative blood culture may result if the patient was receiving antibiotics capable of masking the bacteria's presence. These additional tests may include blood gas analysis, kidney function tests and platelet counts. It is important for physicians to determine the underlying cause of the sepsis, in order to provide the patient with the most appropriate and effective treatment. All septic patients require careful monitoring in an intensive care setting, including the administration of a broad range of intravenous antibiotics to eliminate the infection. The added use of oxygen and medications to help raise blood pressure may be needed to help the patient fight the infection. If respiratory failure occurs, the mechanical support of a ventilator also would be required. Similarly, if kidney failure occurs, the patient would need to receive dialysis in order to have a fighting chance at survival.