Blood poisoning (sepsis)

Blood poisoning (sepsis) occurs when the body is no longer able to fight an infection.

Overview

Blood poisoning (sepsis) occurs when the body is no longer able to fight an infection. The patient suffers from fever, confusion, a loss of blood pressure and, in the worst case, multiple organ failure. Therapy relies heavily on antibiotics and intravenous fluid replacement.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

Other symptoms

  • Low blood pressure (septic shock)
  • Punctiform or blotchy haematoma
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stiff neck
  • Stomach ache
  • Abscesses when bacteria is carried through the bloodstream to internal organs
  • Multiple organ failure (loss of function of multiple organs, e.g. kidney, lung or heart failure)

Causes and treatment

Causes

The condition starts with an infection caused by bacteria (or more rarely, fungi or viruses) which is carried through the bloodstream to other organs. Potential starting points are:

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Sepsis is a very serious condition which requires treatment in the intensive care ward. Multiple organ failure leading to death can occur in spite of applying all possible therapies.

Possible tests
  • Blood test (search for bacteria, among others)
  • Urine test
  • Wound swabs, catheter swabs
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid
  • X-ray
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics
  • Intravenous fluid replacement (infusion)
  • Antifungal medication
  • Medication to stabilise the cardiovascular system (e.g. noradrenaline)
  • Operation
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Kidney dialysis

When to see a doctor?

  • High fever accompanied by
    • disorientation
    • confusion or
    • cold skin

Synonyms

Blood poisoning (sepsis), Sepsis

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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