Sepsis (Blood Poisoning)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is the treatment for sepsis?

In almost every case of sepsis, patients need to be hospitalized, treated with appropriate intravenous antibiotics, and given therapy to support any organ dysfunction. Sepsis can quickly cause organ damage and death; therapy should not be delayed as statistics suggest as high as a 7% mortality increase per hour if antibiotics are delayed in severe sepsis. Most cases of sepsis are treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital by critical care medicine specialists, infectious disease specialists, and others as needed.

Appropriate antibiotics to treat sepsis are combinations of two or three antibiotics given at the same time; most combinations usually include vancomycin to treat many MRSA infections. Some of the commonly used antibiotics used are

However, once the infecting organism is isolated, labs can determine which antibiotics are most effective against the organisms, and those antibiotics should be used to treat the patient. In addition to antibiotics, two other major therapeutic interventions, organ-system support and surgery, may be needed. First, if an organ system needs support, the intensive care unit can often provide it (for example, intubation [mechanical ventilation] to support lung function or dialysis to support kidney function) or a central venous catheter and fluid replacement with intravenous fluids and/or antihypotensive medication to raise blood pressure (norepinephrine [Levophed] or phenylephrine [Neo-Synephrine] administered by IV). Secondly, surgery may be needed to drain or remove the source of infection. Amputation of extremities has been done to save some patients' lives.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/8/2017

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