Sepsis occurs when large numbers of infectious agents exist in the blood. Infections with viruses, fungi, and parasites may lead to sepsis as well. The body responds by trying to fight the infection. Causes include:
- An existing infection
- Contagious diseases
- A dirty needle used by an IV drug user
|Toxins Can Spread Through the Bloodstream|
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This condition is more common in older adults, especially those with frail health. Factors that increase your chance of getting sepsis include:
- Recent illness or hospital care, especially surgery
Poorly working immune system due to:
- Cancer or cancer treatment
- Type 2 diabetes
- HIV infection or another condition that suppresses the immune system, such as an autoimmune disease or immune deficiency
- Medications that suppress the immune system
- Medical treatment with an invasive device
- IV drug abuse
- Crowded living conditions, which can occur with some types of pneumonia and meningitis
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If sepsis is suspected, the source of the infection will attempt to be found.
Your bodily fluids and waste products may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood cultures and tests
- Urine cultures and tests
- Sputum cultures
- Stool cultures
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
This condition will need to be treated aggressively. Treatment is aimed at the cause of the initial infection.
Early treatment improves the chance of survival. Life-saving steps may be needed to assist breathing and heart function. People with sepsis usually need to be observed in an intensive care unit.
IV antibiotics will be used to fight a bacterial infection and to clear it from your blood. You may be given oral antibiotics when you leave the hospital.
Surgery is sometimes needed to remove or drain the initial infection.
You will likely receive other medications, IV fluids, and oxygen. If your blood pressure remains too low, you may need vasopressors—medications to help maintain your normal blood pressure. Blood transfusions and a respirator to help you breathe may be necessary in some cases.
Further treatment depends on how your body is responding. For example, you may need kidney dialysis if kidney failure occurs.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Sepsis; Septicemia)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
Infectious Diseases Society of America http://www.idsociety.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
Early-onset neonatal sepsis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T901439/Early-onset-neonatal-sepsis . Updated August 11, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Late-onset neonatal sepsis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116619/Late-onset-neonatal-sepsis . Updated August 11, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Sepsis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115805/Sepsis-in-adults . Updated June 8, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Sepsis in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T326289/Sepsis-in-children . Updated October 22, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2016.
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