What is septicemia?

Septicemia is a serious and even life-threatening infection of the blood. Usually it is caused by bacterial infection, but fungi and other organisms also cause this widespread infection of the bloodstream. “Bacteremia” is another term that denotes the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. Symptoms are related to the chemicals produced during the body’s immune response to the massive infection.

Septicemia usually results from of an infection elsewhere in the body that leads to a dangerous buildup of bacteria in the bloodstream. The most common areas of infection that lead to septicemia include the abdomen, lungs, urinary tract, bone (osteomyelitis), central nervous system (meningitis) and heart (endocarditis). Other tissues also may be involved.

With septicemia, a person’s condition can decline very rapidly. The initial symptoms include accelerated pulse, rapid breathing, chills, and high fevers that come on suddenly. These may lead to shock and a sudden decrease in blood pressure, and confusion or other mental changes. Red spots may occur on the skin as a result of clotting problems in the blood.

Treatment of septicemia requires hospitalization, where intravenous fluids and antibiotics will be given, along with supplemental oxygen and other medications.

Septicemia is a serious medical condition that can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such an accelerated pulse (tachycardia), rapid breathing, chills, shock, sudden high fevers, sudden decrease in blood pressure, low body temperature (hypothermia), or confusion or other changes in mental status. In the elderly, change in mental status may be the only early sign of sepsis. In children, tachycardia and rapid breathing occur early while low blood pressure and low body temperature occur later.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of septicemia?

Symptoms of septicemia are very serious and progress as the infection develops in the bloodstream.

Early symptoms of septicemia

Early symptoms of septicemia include:

CAUSES

What causes septicemia?

Septicemia occurs when an infection in any part of your body spreads to the bloodstream.

Common areas of infection that lead to septicemia include the abdomen, lungs, urinary tract, bone (osteomyelitis), central nervous system (meningitis) and heart (endocarditis).

What are the risk factors for septicemia?

A number of factors increase the risk of developin... Read more about septicemiacauses

TREATMENTS

How is septicemia treated?

Treatment of septicemia requires hospitalization, typically in the intensive care unit (ICU), where you will be given fluids and medications intravenously. You will receive antibiotics to fight the infection, as well as supplemental oxygen, plasma or other blood products to help with blood-clotting problems and other abnormalities. Resp... Read more about septicemiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.