Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Septicemia

Septicemia is bacteria in the blood (bacteremia ) that often occurs with severe infections.

Alternative Names

Blood poisoning; Bacteremia with sepsis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Septicemia is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly. It can arise from infections throughout the body, including infections in the lungs, abdomen, and urinary tract. It may come before or at the same time as infections of the:

Symptoms

Septicemia can begin with:

  • Chills
  • High fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate

The person looks very ill.

The symptoms quickly progress to:

  • Confusion or other changes in mental status
  • Red spots on the skin (petechiae and ecchymosis)

There may be decreased or no urine output .

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show:

Tests that can confirm infection include:

Treatment

Septicemia is a serious condition that requires a hospital stay. You may be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).

You may be given:

  • Antibiotics to treat the infection
  • Fluids and medicines by IV to maintain the blood pressure
  • Oxygen
  • Plasma or other blood products to correct any clotting problems

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook depends on the bacteria involved and how quickly the patient is hospitalized and treatment begins. The death rate is high -- more than 50% for some infections.

Complications

Septicemia can quickly lead to:

Septicemia due to meningococci can lead to shock or adrenal collapse (Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome ).

Calling your health care provider

Septicemia is not common but it is very serious. Diagnosing it early may prevent septicemia from worsening to shock.

Seek immediate care if:

  • A person has a fever, shaking chills, and looks very ill
  • Any person who has been ill has changes in mental status
  • There are signs of bleeding into the skin

Call your health care provider if your child's vaccinations are not up-to-date.

Prevention

Getting treated for infections can prevent septicemia. The Haemophilus influenza B (HIB) vaccine and S. pneumoniae vaccine have already reduced the number of septicemia cases in children. Both are recommended childhood immunizations.

In rare cases, people who are in close contact with someone who has septicemia may be prescribed preventive antibiotics.

References

Munford RS, Suffredini AF. Sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2009: chap 70.

Shapiro NI, Zimmer GD, Barkin AZ. Sepsis syndromes. In: Marx, JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009: chap 136.

Orenstein WA, Pickering LK. Immunization practices. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 165.

Updated: 8/24/2011

Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com