Sepsis can be a dangerous complication of almost any type of infection, including influenza, pneumonia and food poisoning; urinary tract infections; bloodstream infections from wounds; and abdominal infections. Steve Peters, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care physician at Mayo Clinic and senior author of a recent sepsis overview in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, explains sepsis symptoms and risk factors, the difference between severe sepsis and septic shock, and how sepsis is typically treated:
What is sepsis?Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail.
“Many infections can cause it,” Dr. Peters says. “It is most common with bacterial infections, but you can get sepsis from other types of bugs also.”
What are symptoms to watch for? A high fever; inability to keep fluids down; rapid heartbeat; rapid, shallow breathing; lethargy and confusion are among the signs. If sepsis is suspected, seek emergency care, Dr. Peters advises. Rapid intervention is critical.
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