What is septic shock?
Sepsis is the result of an infection, and causes drastic
changes in the body. It can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
It occurs when chemicals that fight infection by triggering
inflammatory reactions are released into the bloodstream.
Doctors have identified three stages of sepsis:
is when the infection reaches the bloodstream and causes inflammation in the
sepsis is when the infection is severe enough to affect the function of your
organs, such as the heart, brain, and kidneys.
shock is when you experience a significant drop in blood pressure that can lead
to respiratory or heart failure, stroke, failure of other organs, and death.
It is thought that the inflammation resulting from sepsis
causes tiny blood clots to form. This can block oxygen and nutrients from
reaching vital organs.
The inflammation occurs most often in older adults or those
with a weakened immune system. But both sepsis and septic shock can happen to
Septic shock is the most common cause of death in intensive care
units in the United States.
What are the symptoms of septic shock?
Early symptoms of sepsis should not be ignored. These include:
- fever usually higher than 101˚F (38˚C)
- low body temperature (hypothermia)
- fast heart rate
- rapid breathing, or more than 20 breaths per
Severe sepsis is defined as sepsis with evidence of organ
damage that usually affects the kidneys, heart, lungs, or brain. Symptoms of
severe sepsis include:
lower amounts of urine
discoloration of the digits or lips (cyanosis)
People who are experiencing septic shock will experience the
symptoms of severe sepsis, but they will also have very low blood pressure that
doesn’t respond to fluid replacement.
What causes septic shock?
A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection can cause sepsis. Any
of the infections may begin at home or while you are in the hospital for treatment
of another condition.
Sepsis commonly originates from:
or digestive system infections
infections like pneumonia
What are the risk factors?
Certain factors such as age or prior illness can put you at
greater risk for developing septic shock. This condition is common in newborns,
older adults, pregnant women, and those with suppressed immune systems caused
by HIV, rheumatic diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, or
psoriasis. And inflammatory bowel diseases or cancer treatments could cause it.
The following factors could also make it more likely that a
person develops septic shock:
surgery or long-term hospitalization
type 1 and type 2 injection drug use
patients that are already very sick
to devices like intravenous catheters, urinary catheters, or breathing tubes,
which can introduce bacteria into the body
Which tests are used to diagnose septic shock?
If you have symptoms of sepsis, the next step is to conduct tests
to determine how far along the infection is. Diagnosis is often made with a
blood test. This type of test can determine if any of the following factors are
in the blood
with clotting due to low platelet count
waste products in the blood
liver or kidney function
amount of oxygen
Depending on your symptoms and the results of the blood
test, there are other tests that a doctor may want to perform to determine the
source of your infection. These include:
secretion test if you have an open area that looks infected
secretion test to see what type of germ is behind the infection
In cases where the source of the infection is not clear from
the tests above, a doctor could also apply the following methods of getting an
internal view of your body:
complications can septic shock cause?
Septic shock can cause a variety of very dangerous and
life-threatening complications that can be fatal. Possible complications
of a portion of the bowel
of portions of the extremities
complications you may experience, and the outcome of your condition can depend
on factors such as:
soon treatment is started
and origin of sepsis within the body
How is septic shock treated?
The earlier sepsis is diagnosed and treated, the more likely
you are to survive. Once sepsis is diagnosed, you will most likely be admitted
to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for treatment. Doctors use a number of
medications to treat septic shock, including:
antibiotics to fight infection
medications, which are drugs that constrict blood vessels and help increase
for blood sugar stability
Large amounts of intravenous (IV) fluids will be
administered to treat dehydration and help increase blood pressure and blood
flow to the organs. A respirator for breathing may also be necessary. Surgery
may be performed to remove a source of infection, such as draining a pus-filled
abscess or removing infected tissue.
Long-term outlook for septic shock
Septic shock is a severe condition, and more than 50
percent of cases will result in death. Your chances of surviving septic
shock will depend on the source of the infection, how many organs have been affected,
and how soon you receive treatment after you first begin experiencing symptoms.