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Sepsis (Blood Infection) and Septic Shock

Sepsis Treatment

The first step to successful treatment for sepsis is quick diagnosis. If sepsis is suspected, the doctor will perform an exam and run tests to look for:

  • Bacteria in the blood or other body fluids
  • Source of the infection, using imaging technology such as X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound
  • A high or low white blood cell count
  • A low platelet count
  • Low blood pressure
  • Too much acid in the blood (acidosis)
  • Altered kidney or liver function 

Other tests of bodily fluids and radiologic tests, such as X-ray or CT scan, can often help in diagnosing the cause of the infection. People diagnosed with severe sepsis are usually placed in the intensive care unit (ICU), where doctors try to stop the infection, keep vital organs functioning, and regulate blood pressure.

Sepsis treatment usually begins with:

  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics, which kill many types of bacteria
  • IV fluids to maintain blood pressure
  • Oxygen to maintain normal blood oxygen

Once the infectious agent is identified, the doctor can switch to a drug that targets that particular agent. Depending on the severity and effects of sepsis, other types of treatment, such as a breathing machine or kidney dialysis, may be needed. Sometimes surgery is necessary to drain or clean an infection.

Often doctors prescribe other treatments, including vasopressors (drugs that cause the blood vessels to narrow) to improve blood pressure.

Permanent organ damage can occur in people who survive sepsis. Between 28& and 50% of patients with severe sepsis die from the infection.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 21, 2015
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