Sepsis is a serious complication that can arise in people who have a bacterial infection in any part of their body. If an infection is particularly severe or the person’s immune system is weak, the bacteria can spread throughout the blood to other parts of the body more quickly.
This causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive. Inflammation, a usually helpful part of the immune response, can become excessive and damage tissues or interfere with blood flow. This can lead to a drop in blood pressure, so oxygen does not reach the organs and tissues where it is required.
Patients must be treated with antibiotics and given fluids and oxygen, but this needs to be done quickly. Without rapid antibiotic treatment, it is possible for the person to go into septic shock and suffer from multiple organ failure, resulting in lifelong disability or even death.
Clinicians are very concerned that patients with sepsis through infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria may not respond to treatment. The number of reported cases in the UK is increasing.
What is the difference between sepsis and septicaemia?
Septicaemia is a severe blood infection (blood poisoning). Sepsis is a complication of septicaemia that arises from the way the body responds to such infections, so septicaemia can cause sepsis.