Sepsis: Raising Awareness of the Number 1 Killer of Patients in Hospitals


What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death. According to information compiled by the Sepsis Alliance, sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals.

Sepsis happens when an infection you already have, commonly
  • lungs (pneumonia)
  • kidney (urinary tract infection)
  • skin
  • gut
triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.

Sepsis is most frequently identified with infections such as:
  • Staphylococcus aureus (staph)
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Some types of Streptococcus.  
Sepsis can be related to many diseases and conditions such as cancer, c.diff, urinary tract infections, and many more. Click here to read about conditions that can put a patient at risk for sepsis.


Who is at risk for sepsis?

Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. It is also sometimes called "blood poisoning". Those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease, are at higher risk of developing infections that can lead to sepsis. (See list of other diseases and conditions related to sepsis.)

At highest risk of developing sepsis are those:
  • Age 65 and older
  • Age 1 and younger
  • With Chronic medical conditions (stated above)
  • With weakened immune systems.

What are the symptoms?

There is no single symptom of sepsis. Symptoms of sepsis can include a combination of any of the following:
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • High heart rate
  • Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Clammy or sweaty skin.
Get medical help immediately if you suspect sepsis, or if your infection is not getting better or is getting worse.

What to do if you suspect sepsis?

Sepsis is a medical emergency. Time matters. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately if you suspect sepsis.
  • It’s important that you ask, “Could this be sepsis?”
  • If you are continuing to feel worse or not getting better in the days after surgery, ask your doctor about sepsis.
  • If you have an infection and don’t get better or start feeling worse, ask your doctor, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC.gov/sepsis

For more information, go to https://www.cdc.gov/sepsis

See also: Sepsis Alliance - https://www.sepsis.org

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