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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

  • ceftriaxone (Rocephin),
  • meropenem (Merrem),
  • ceftazidime (Fortaz),
  • cefotaxime (Claforan),
  • cefepime (Maxipime),
  • piperacillin and tazobactam (Zosyn),
  • ampicillin and sulbactam (Unasyn),
  • imipenem/cilastatin (Primaxin),
  • levofloxacin (Levaquin), and
  • clindamycin (Cleocin).

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.

Return to Sepsis

See what others are saying

Comment from: iamme, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: April 15

I had sepsis when I was 19. I was pregnant and got the awful news that I'd lost my baby at 27 weeks. Doctors took me to labor ward and induced labor for a standard natural birth. I felt physically fine but about an hour into labor things started to go horribly wrong. First I started vomiting nonstop then I don't remember anything for the next two weeks but my mother tells me my heart started to race and I no longer knew where I was. Within minutes I'd gone from feeling fine to doctors clearing the room and running with me to the theater for an emergency C-section. I woke up in ICU 15 days later being told I wasn't just waking up after a C-section but had spent 15 days fighting for my life on full life support. Somehow I had contracted septicemia though I hadn't felt sick. Within minutes of feeling sick my condition had rapidly deteriorated to almost dying. Purple sores had covered my face and chest, my kidneys had shut down and doctors weren't holding out much hope for my survival. The only thing on my side was that my brain was unaffected. Recovering took months. I felt like I had been on dialysis forever and I was never going to leave hospital.

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Comment from: Jenniferliz, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: July 28

A friend that was a care giver used a home remedy on me and wrapped raw bacon on the entire area of sepsis from both points of the red streak (end to end) and wrapped it in cloth. When I received treatment at the hospital I was prescribed cephalexin.

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Comment from: RacerGirlSan13, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

I had 3 bouts with sepsis. I flat lined/died 3 times. I shouldn't be here and am thankful every day that I am. I was down to 97 pounds, I had no clue I had it. I got up to go to work, got in the shower, by the time I got out I couldn't stand straight up and had a killer pain in my belly. I drove to the emergency room. I don't remember driving, all I know is I woke up 2 weeks later with a doctor looking at me. I had IV's, pick lines, renal shutdown, blood clots, warfarin forever, more tubes and bags than in my car! I also got MRSA - lovely. I was in the ICU for those 2 weeks, it all stemmed from years of severe malnutrition. I had bariatric surgery which has since been revised, years ago, hence the malnutrition. Nineteen surgeries later I still have some issues where he had to rebuild my side/stomach from a jejunostomy. Please, if you feel anything get it checked out better to be safe than sorry.

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