Septic shock is a condition in which blood pressure falls dangerously. It may occur in patients with serious infections. Very low blood pressure will slow blood flow. Organ failure may occur if the blood flow is too low.
Septic shock is caused by sepsis. Sepsis can be triggered by many different kinds of infections including:
- Fungal infections
The following factors increase your chance of septic shock:
- Age: newborns and people over age 50
- Weakened immune system
- Low white blood cell counts
- Chronic diseases
- Previous surgery
If you experience any of these do not assume it is due to septic shock. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor.
- Reduced alertness
- Irregular blood pressure
- Fever, which may be followed by a drop in body temperature
- Warm, flushed skin
- Rapid, pounding heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Reduced urination
- Kidney failure
- Lung failure
- Heart failure
- Blood clots
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include the following:
- Blood tests to measure white blood cells, oxygen levels, platelet count, lactic acid, and metabolic waste
- Blood tests and cultures to check for infectious organisms
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)—to check for heart rhythm irregularities
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Supportive Measures for Shock
If you have septic shock, you will be admitted to the intensive care unit. There you will be given:
- IV fluids—delivered directly into a vein
- Drugs to increase blood flow
- Extra oxygen
Once the cause of the infection is identified, you will be given high doses of one or more antibiotics.
Surgery may be performed to remove any dead tissue.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians
Sepsis: what you should know. Society of Critical Care Medicine website. Available at: http://www.sccm.org/SCCM/Patient-Family+Resources/Support+Brochures/Sepsis.htm . Accessed September 26, 2006.
Septic shock. Merck website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/print/sec17/ch191/ch191c.html . Accessed September 26 2006.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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