Septic Shock

Sepsis is a systemic inflammatory response to a severe infection. The inflammatory response triggers a rapid cascade of events, such as leaking blood vessels and impaired blood flow. Severe sepsis is associated with a drop in blood pressure. Low blood pressure reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the body's organs. This drop causes damage the body's major organs. Septic shock occurs when adequate blood pressure can't be restored despite treatment with IV fluids. Septic shock may lead to multiple organ failure and death.

  • Causes


    Septic shock is caused by an infection that overwhelms the body. Sepsis can be triggered by many different kinds of infections including:

    • Bacterial—most common
    • Fungal infections
    • Viral
    • Parasitic
    Lung sepsis infant
    An infection of the lungs has spread throughout the body, leading to septic shock.
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  • Definition

    Sepsis is a systemic inflammatory response to a severe infection. The inflammatory response triggers a rapid cascade of events, such as leaking blood vessels and impaired blood flow.

    Severe sepsis is associated with a drop in blood pressure. Low blood pressure reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the body's organs. This drop causes damage the body's major organs.

    Septic shock occurs when adequate blood pressure can't be restored despite treatment with IV fluids. Septic shock may lead to multiple organ failure and death.

  • Diagnosis


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Tests may include the following:

    • Complete blood tests to assess white blood cell counts, inflammatory markers, oxygen levels, and kidney function
    • Cultures to check for infectious organisms
    • Electrocardiogram
      (EKG) to check for heart rhythm irregularities
    • Imaging tests may be used to look for specific sources of infection, such as pneumonia

  • Prevention

    Most cases of septic shock cannot be prevented. Treating bacterial and other infections promptly may help.

  • Risk Factors


    Septic shock is more common in infants and in people over 50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of septic shock include:

    • Weakened immune system
    • Absence of your spleen
    • Cancer
    • Low white blood cell counts
    • Chronic diseases
    • Previous surgery

  • Symptoms

    Septic shock may cause:

    • Fever, which may be followed by a drop in body temperature to below normal
    • Warm, flushed skin
    • Chills
    • Rapid, pounding heartbeat
    • Rapid breathing
    • Confusion
    • Reduced alertness
    • Irregular blood pressure
    • Reduced urination

    Complications from septic shock may cause symptoms of:

  • Treatment

    Sepsis and septic shock require immediate care. Treatment includes the following: