Sepsis is a serious medical condition that is caused by an infection. The infection is usually due to bacteria, but is sometimes caused by a virus or fungus. The location of the infection may be anywhere in the body, such as the blood, lungs, skin or urine. The body’s response to the infection is to trigger the immune system, which is the body’s way of fighting infection. Sepsis can cause failure of many body systems, including the lungs, kidneys, heart and circulation.
Sepsis is more common in old people, babies, and people whose immune systems are not working well, but even healthy people can get sick from it.
What can I expect in the hospital?
Severe sepsis is a medical emergency and requires treatment in the hospital. Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:
You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
A heart (cardiac) monitor may be used to keep track of your heartbeat.
Your fluid intake may be monitored closely by keeping track of everything you eat and drink and any IV fluids you receive.
You may have a small tube (catheter) placed into your bladder through the urethra (the opening from the bladder to the outside of the body) to drain and measure urine from the bladder.
You may have fingersticks to check blood sugar regularly. This may be done as often as every hour.
Testing may include:
Blood tests to check for infections
Blood, urine, or other tests to monitor how well your organs are functioning
Tests of bowel movements to check for infection
Urine tests to check for bacteria or blood in your urine
Cultures: Tests in which cells and fluid are gently collected from wounds to check for infection. The cells are sent to a lab for tests.
X-rays: Pictures of the inside of the chest to check for infection
Lumbar puncture: A test in which a sample of fluid is taken from the area around your spinal cord to check for infection or inflammation in your brain or spinal fluid
Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of a part of the body to check for abnormalities or infection
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of a part of the body to check for abnormalities or infection
Ultrasound scan: Sound waves and their echoes are passed through your body from a small device (called a transducer) that is held against your skin to create pictures of the inside of a part of the body to check for abnormalities or pockets of infection
The treatment for sepsis depends on its cause, your symptoms, how well you respond to treatment, your overall health, and any complications you may have.
You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
You may receive oxygen through a small tube placed under your nose or through a mask placed over your face. In very severe cases, you may have a tube put into your lungs to help you breathe.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
Treat the infection
Control your blood sugar
Narrow your blood vessels and increase your blood pressure
Prevent blood clots
What can I do to help?
You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
Chills or sweats
Nausea or vomiting
Dizziness when you stand up or fainting
Redness, swelling, or drainage of pus from any wounds
Easy bruising or bleeding
Increased pain at a site of infection or surgery
Redness, swelling, or leaking around the area where an IV goes into your skin
Ask questions about any medicine or treatment or information that you do not understand.
How long will I be in the hospital?
How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with sepsis is 6 to 9 days.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-04-30 Last reviewed: 2014-04-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Mandell, Douglas and Bennett’s principles and practice of infectious diseases (7. ed.). (2010). New York [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone.
US Department of Health & Human Services. (2011) National and regional estimates on hospital use for all patients from the HCUP nationwide inpatient sample. Agency for healthcare research and quality website. Retrieved 04/09/2014 from http://hcupnet.ahrq.gov/HCUPnet.jsp