What is Sepsis?

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Jojo Ming (Image: Gay Globe)

Sepsis is a severe medical condition that arises when the body’s response to infection triggers a chain reaction, causing inflammation throughout the body and potentially leading to organ failure and death. It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Causes of Sepsis: Sepsis typically occurs when an infection in one part of the body spreads to other areas via the bloodstream. Common sources of infection leading to sepsis include bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. These infections can originate from various sites, such as the lungs (pneumonia), urinary tract (UTI), abdomen (such as appendicitis or diverticulitis), skin (cellulitis), or other organs. In some cases, infections from medical procedures, such as surgery or the use of invasive devices like catheters, can also lead to sepsis.

Symptoms of Sepsis: The symptoms of sepsis can vary widely but often include a combination of fever, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, confusion or altered mental status, and signs of organ dysfunction. These signs can progress rapidly, and early recognition is crucial for prompt treatment.

Diagnosis of Sepsis: Diagnosing sepsis involves a thorough medical evaluation, including a review of symptoms, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Blood cultures are typically obtained to identify the causative organism, while other tests may assess organ function, such as kidney and liver function tests, blood gas analysis, and imaging studies like X-rays or CT scans to identify the source of infection.

Treatment of Sepsis: The treatment of sepsis requires prompt intervention to control the infection, stabilize vital signs, and support organ function. Antibiotics are usually administered intravenously to target the specific microorganism causing the infection. In cases of severe sepsis or septic shock, additional therapies may be necessary, such as intravenous fluids to maintain blood pressure, vasopressor medications to constrict blood vessels and improve blood flow, and oxygen therapy to support respiratory function. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove the source of infection, such as abscesses or infected tissue.

Prevention of Sepsis: Preventing sepsis involves reducing the risk of infection and promptly treating any infections that do occur. Strategies for preventing infection include practicing good hand hygiene, getting vaccinated against preventable infections such as influenza and pneumonia, following proper food safety practices, and avoiding behaviors that increase the risk of infection, such as smoking or substance abuse. In healthcare settings, preventing healthcare-associated infections through proper infection control measures, such as hand hygiene, sterile technique during procedures, and appropriate use of antibiotics, is essential for reducing the risk of sepsis.