Sepsis or blood infection is a condition where in the body fights severe infection that has proliferated in the blood stream. If a patient is “septic” which means he/she is experiencing sepsis, the person’s blood pressure is really low called “shock”. Shock results from either the action of body’s defense mechanism or because of the toxic substances released by the infecting agents such as virus, bacteria or fungus.
Causes of Blood Infection
There are a lot of different microbes which can cause sepsis. Bacteria is the leading cause of sepsis but fungi and virus can also cause it. Infections in the kidneys and bladder (UTI), lungs (pneumonia), skin (cellulitis), appendicitis, meningitis and others can lead to sepsis. Infections developed after surgery may also cause sepsis.
Who are at risk?
· People taking immunosuppressive medications as with transplant patients
· People treated with radiation or chemotherapy
· People with no spleen – spleen helps fight infection
· Long term taking of steroids
· People with diabetes, cirrhosis and AIDS
· Someone with severe injury and large burns
· People with infections like pneumonia, cellulitis, meningitis, UTI and ruptured appendix
Signs and Symptoms
· Patients with sepsis often have fever. But some have a low or normal temperature
· Severe shaking and chills
· The breathing is rapid with very fast heart beat. Septic patients also has low blood pressure
· Disorientation, confusion, agitation, dizziness and decreased in urination
· Some patients develop skin rash. The rash is described as reddish discoloration or dark small red dots in the body.
· Joint pains
With the use of a needle inserted into the vein, blood is drawn in the patients hand into the several tubes. The blood is tested to see if there is elevation in the white blood cells. The blood is brought to the lab and placed in a medium where bacteria can grow if any is present. This is commonly known as blood culture. Blood culture takes 24 hours. They may also look for bacteria in the blood with the use of microscope.
Other samples such as urine, sputum, and spinal fluid or abscess contents are also taken to look for infectious organisms.
Bacterial infection is a medical emergency. A person having sepsis should be treated in the hospital specifically in the intensive care unit. The patient will be placed on oxygen. The doctor will order medications depending on the tests results. Usually, antibiotics are given intravenously. Initially, a broad spectrum antibiotic is given, an antibiotic which can kill different kinds of bacteria because the specific bacteria type is still not known in this phase. If the blood results are released, a different antibiotic will be given which can kill the specific microbe.
Saline solutions and medications that increase the blood pressure are also given. If an infection in the abdomen is known, infection drainage through tubes or surgery may be done.
For the past 20 to 30 years, research for the treatment of sepsis has failed. A lot of medications that was thought to be helpful were determined to have no benefit. But scientists are working hard to discover a medication that would change the aggressive immune response of our body which leads to sepsis.