Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

  • 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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How do physicians diagnose toxic shock syndrome?

In general, after the history and physical, if the patient has low blood pressure and multiorgan involvement characterized by two of the above listed symptoms of organ dysfunction (renal, lung, liver, skin, or blood), the clinical diagnosis of TSS is made, according to CDC criteria. A confirmation of the diagnosis is done by isolation of one of the causative bacteria; the bacteria should be identified as capable of producing exotoxin that either is, or functions like, TSST-1.

What is the treatment for toxic shock syndrome?

The treatment for TSS varies from patient to patient; however, the following treatments are fairly common. Patients with TSS usually will be treated with two or more of the following treatments:

  • Intravenous fluids to treat shock
  • IV antibiotics
  • Deep surgical cleaning of any infected wounds
  • Cardiac medications to help treat low blood pressure
  • Oxygen and/or mechanical ventilation as needed
  • Blood products if needed
  • Dialysis for patients with kidney failure
  • Hospitalization in an intensive-care unit

What is the prognosis of toxic shock syndrome?

Patients with TSS who are diagnosed early and given appropriate treatment often have a good prognosis. Early treatment can help prevent complications such as renal failure, respiratory failure, and coagulation disorders. However, the mortality (death) rate is about 5%-15%, and patients who develop complications have a poorer prognosis than those who do not. Patients who develop TSS are at risk for reinfection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/16/2016

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