Sepsis is an emergency medical condition that can lead to death within hours without proper treatment. It occurs when the body has an extreme immunological reaction to an infection.
In time, this reaction can cause changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. It can also cause organ damage and shock.
A virus, bacteria, or fungus can trigger sepsis, and can be present anywhere on the body.
Call the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases to learn more or make an appointment at 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.
Sepsis is a life-threatening extreme response to an infection you already have.
In the U.S., about 1.7 million people get sepsis each year.
It's a leading cause of death in hospitals each year in the U.S., claiming about 250,000 lives. Anywhere from one third to one half of people who die in the hospital have sepsis.
One reason for the high death toll is that it may take too long to know that someone has sepsis. And it spreads very quickly. By the time a person shows sepsis symptoms, they may have only hours or days left to live if left untreated.
Each hour that passes without receiving treatment for sepsis increases the likelihood a person will develop septic shock and die.
If healthcare staff realize that a person has sepsis early enough, they have a much better chance of saving the person's life.
Sepsis starts with an infection. The infection could begin with any kind of germ, but certain bacteria are more often the cause of sepsis than other germs.
Four types of infections more likely to lead to sepsis compared to other types of infections are:
Some people have a greater risk than others of getting sepsis after an infection.
About 90% of adults and 70% of children who got sepsis had a condition that put them at greater risk for it.
People with a higher risk include those who:
If a person doesn't receive a sepsis diagnosis early enough, they're much less likely to survive.
The best way to save someone from dying from sepsis is to notice the symptoms quickly and get them treatment right away.
The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent getting an infection.
There are four major things you can do to reduce the risk of an infection:
Sepsis symptoms look like common symptoms of many other illnesses.
But the six main symptoms of sepsis are:
If you see someone with many or all of these symptoms, take them to the ER or call 911 right away. This is especially crucial if the person is high risk or has an infection
If you have some of these symptoms but are low risk and don't have a known infection, you should call your doctor.
To diagnose sepsis, a healthcare provider must see you in person and will:
UPMC's providers all have training in knowing the signs of sepsis and to act quickly to diagnose and treat it.
The goal of treating sepsis is to cure the infection causing it to help the immune system return to normal. Sepsis treatment will also try to stop organ damage from occurring.
We may give you an IV with antibiotics to treat an infection caused by bacteria.
Some common side effects from antibiotics are:
Some people have allergies to certain types of antibiotics or other medications. Make sure your doctor knows this so they can find treatments that are safe for you.
One possible serious side effect of antibiotics is C. diff — a bacterial infection. It occurs because antibiotics can kill off 'good' bacteria in your body that normally protect it against C. diff.
The most common symptom of C. diff is severe watery diarrhea at least three times a day.
Other common symptoms of C. diff are:
If you're taking antibiotics and have any of these symptoms, let a doctor or nurse know right away.
Antibiotics that most often cause C. diff:
If the infection came from a virus or other germ, doctors will only give you anti-viral drugs that can fight that germ. Antibiotics don't help viral infections.
Side effects from anti-viral drugs vary by drug, but some common ones are:
Ask the doctor about possible side effects of the anti-viral drug they give you.
Tell your doctor if you have severe effects, such as:
If someone with sepsis has trouble getting enough oxygen to all of their organs, doctors may give them:
If advanced sepsis caused kidney damage, you may need dialysis to help do the kidneys' job.
Some people may also need a breathing tube or surgery to remove infected or damaged tissue.
It will take time to get better after sepsis.
Ways that can help you heal physically and emotionally are to:
To learn more about the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases or to make an appointment, call 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.