ID: 107
Category: Infection
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 17 Jan 2023
updatedon: 03 Apr 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jan 17, 2023
Updated Apr 03, 2023

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Etymology and Pronunciation

Sepsis (SEP-sis)
sēpsis - Greek for "decay" or "putrefaction"

History of Sepsis

One of the earliest pioneers in the study of sepsis was Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who worked in Vienna in the mid-19th century. He noticed that women who gave birth in the hospital were more likely to develop sepsis than those who gave birth at home. After conducting experiments, he concluded that the cause of sepsis was the transfer of infectious materials from one patient to another by doctors and medical students who failed to wash their hands properly between patients. His work helped establish the importance of hand hygiene in preventing the spread of infection and laid the foundation for the development of modern infection control practices.

In the early 20th century, researchers began to identify the specific bacteria and other pathogens that caused sepsis. They also discovered that sepsis could lead to a condition called septic shock, which was characterized by a dangerous drop in blood pressure and organ failure.

Over the decades, advances in medicine and technology have led to a better understanding of sepsis and improved treatment options. For example, the introduction of antibiotics in the mid-20th century made it possible to treat bacterial infections that can lead to sepsis, while the development of advanced imaging techniques and laboratory tests have made it easier to diagnose sepsis in its early stages.

Modern Understanding of Sepsis

Sepsis is caused by the inflammation throughout the body initiated from infection (caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi). This leads to a widespread inflammation throughout the body, causing the immune system to respond in a manner that can harm normal body tissues and organs. If left untreated, sepsis can quickly progress to organ failure and even septic shock, which can be fatal.

The symptoms of sepsis can be mistaken for other illnesses, but some common indicators include fever, hypothermia, elevated heart rate, increased breathing rate, confusion or disorientation, and low blood pressure. Additionally, the number of white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, may increase. This is the body's response to the infection, but it can cause further harm if the response is too strong.

Some medical researchers consider sepsis to have three stages. The first stage is the least severe and usually has symptoms of fever and an increased heart rate. The second stage is more severe and is characterized by symptoms of difficulty breathing and possible organ malfunctions, while the third is the most severe stage (septic shock or severe sepsis) with life-threatening low blood pressure. This can lead to organ failure and death if not treated promptly. Some of these organ failures can lead to amputation of the arms or legs if the person survives.

There are several types of infections that can lead to sepsis, such as bacteremia and septicemia, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, necrotizing fasciitis, and septic arthritis. Treatment for sepsis involves antibiotics to kill the invading microorganisms and support for the patient's vital functions while their body fights the infection.

Usually, early stages of sepsis are not emergency situations. But it may take up to 3 days before the onset of this disease lead to immediate medical attention. Monitor the person to see if symptoms are worsened.

Sepsis is diagnosed by measuring blood levels of certain chemicals that indicate inflammation, and by identifying the source of infection through cultures of blood, urine or other body fluids. Treatment usually includes antibiotics to fight the infection, fluids to maintain blood pressure, and oxygen to support breathing. In severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized and treated in an intensive care unit.

If you suspect you have sepsis, then do the following:
- Check for wounds or insect bites. If they're bleeding, then that's a source where bacteria can enter your body.
- Go see a doctor for blood counts, blood cultures and oxygen level monitoring.

It is important to seek medical attention promptly if you suspect you have an infection. Early recognition and treatment can greatly improve the outcome for individuals with sepsis. Additionally, taking steps to prevent infections, such as maintaining good hygiene and seeking prompt treatment for any infections, can lower the risk of developing sepsis.

Causes of Sepsis

- Infections: Sepsis most commonly occurs as a result of a bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by fungal or viral infections. Any infection can potentially lead to sepsis, but certain types of infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and infections of the bloodstream, are more commonly associated with sepsis.
- Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with HIV/AIDS, are more susceptible to infections that can lead to sepsis.
- Chronic illness: Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and liver disease, can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections that can lead to sepsis.
- Age: Very young and very old people are more susceptible to infections and may be more likely to develop sepsis as a result.
- Hospitalization: People who are hospitalized, particularly those who have undergone surgery or are being treated in intensive care units, are at increased risk of developing infections that can lead to sepsis.
- Medical devices: Medical devices such as catheters, ventilators, and feeding tubes can provide an entry point for bacteria or other pathogens into the body, increasing the risk of infection and sepsis.
- Substance abuse: People who abuse alcohol or inject drugs are more likely to develop infections that can lead to sepsis.

Treatments for Sepsis

The treatment of sepsis typically involves a combination of interventions aimed at avoiding and controlling the infection, stabilizing vital signs, and supporting the body's organs and systems. The following are some of the treatments commonly used in the management of sepsis:

- Practice good hygiene: Regular hand washing, particularly before eating and after using the restroom, can help reduce the risk of infection and the spread of infectious diseases.
- Manage chronic conditions: Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, can increase the risk of infections that can lead to sepsis. By properly managing these conditions, individuals can reduce their risk of developing sepsis.
- Treat infections promptly: Infections that are left untreated or not properly treated can progress to sepsis. By seeking prompt medical attention and following recommended treatment protocols, individuals can reduce their risk of developing sepsis.
- Take care of wounds: Proper wound care, including cleaning and covering wounds and monitoring for signs of infection, can help prevent infections that can lead to sepsis.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment for sepsis caused by bacterial infections. The choice of antibiotics depends on the type of infection and the sensitivity of the bacteria to different antibiotics.
- Intravenous fluids: People with sepsis often require large amounts of intravenous fluids to maintain blood pressure and prevent dehydration.
- Oxygen therapy: If the body's oxygen levels are low, oxygen therapy may be necessary to improve oxygenation and prevent organ damage.
- Vasopressors: Vasopressor medications may be used to constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure if it becomes dangerously low.
- Blood transfusions: In some cases, blood transfusions may be necessary to replace blood lost due to bleeding or to improve the delivery of oxygen to the body's tissues.
- Mechanical ventilation: People with sepsis who are having difficulty breathing may require mechanical ventilation to support their breathing.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove infected tissue or to drain abscesses or other collections of pus.

In addition to these treatments, people with sepsis require close monitoring of their vital signs, blood work, and organ function. They may also require additional support, such as nutritional support or physical therapy, to help them recover from the effects of sepsis.


Uncontrollable shakes / Tremors
Paleness of the skin, especially in the face
Weak pulse / low blood pressure
Slurred speech
Difficulty breathing

Confirmation Tests

- Blood test