Sepsis is a serious bodywide response to bacteremia or another infection. Severe sepsis is sepsis plus either failure of an essential system in the body or inadequate blood flow to parts of the body due to an infection. Septic shock is life-threatening low blood pressure (shock) due to sepsis.
Usually, sepsis results from certain bacterial infections, often acquired in a hospital.
Having certain conditions, such as a weakened immune system, certain chronic disorders, an artificial joint or heart valve, and certain heart valve abnormalities, increases the risk.
At first, people have a high (or sometimes low) body temperature, sometimes with shaking chills and weakness.
As sepsis worsens, the heart beats rapidly, breathing becomes rapid, people become confused, and blood pressure drops.
Doctors suspect the diagnosis based on symptoms and confirm it by detecting bacteria in a sample of blood, urine, or other material.
Antibiotics are given immediately, and people with septic shock are given oxygen and fluids by vein and sometimes drugs to increase blood pressure.
Usually, the body’s response to infection is limited to the specific area infected. But in sepsis, the response to infection occurs throughout the body—called a systemic response.
This response includes an abnormally high temperature (fever) or low temperature (hypothermia) plus one or more of the following:
Severe sepsis is sepsis that causes organs to malfunction and blood flow to become inadequate to parts of the body.
Septic shock is diagnosed when blood pressure remains low despite intensive treatment with fluids by vein.