• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information

PubMed Health. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Septicemia

Blood poisoning; Bacteremia with sepsis

Last reviewed: August 24, 2011.

Septicemia is bacteria in the blood (bacteremia) that often occurs with severe infections.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Septicemia is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly. It can arise from infections throughout the body, including infections in the lungs, abdomen, and urinary tract. It may come before or at the same time as infections of the:

Symptoms

Septicemia can begin with:

The person looks very ill.

The symptoms quickly progress to:

  • Confusion or other changes in mental status
  • Red spots on the skin (petechiae and ecchymosis)

There may be decreased or no urine output.

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show:

Tests that can confirm infection include:

Treatment

Septicemia is a serious condition that requires a hospital stay. You may be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).

You may be given:

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook depends on the bacteria involved and how quickly the patient is hospitalized and treatment begins. The death rate is high -- more than 50% for some infections.

Complications

Septicemia can quickly lead to:

Septicemia due to meningococci can lead to shock or adrenal collapse (Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome).

Calling your health care provider

Septicemia is not common but it is very serious. Diagnosing it early may prevent septicemia from worsening to shock.

Seek immediate care if:

  • A person has a fever, shaking chills, and looks very ill
  • Any person who has been ill has changes in mental status
  • There are signs of bleeding into the skin

Call your health care provider if your child's vaccinations are not up-to-date.

Prevention

Getting treated for infections can prevent septicemia. The Haemophilus influenza B (HIB) vaccine and S. pneumoniae vaccine have already reduced the number of septicemia cases in children. Both are recommended childhood immunizations.

In rare cases, people who are in close contact with someone who has septicemia may be prescribed preventive antibiotics.

References

  1. Munford RS, Suffredini AF. Sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2009: chap 70.
  2. Shapiro NI, Zimmer GD, Barkin AZ. Sepsis syndromes. In: Marx, JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009: chap 136.
  3. Orenstein WA, Pickering LK. Immunization practices. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 165.

Review Date: 8/24/2011.

Reviewed by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Adjustment of antimicrobial agents for adults with sepsis, severe sepsis or septic shockAdjustment of antimicrobial agents for adults with sepsis, severe sepsis or septic shock
    Broad‐spectrum antimicrobial treatment is defined as the use of an antibiotic or a combination of antibiotics which act against a wide range of disease‐causing bacteria. Broad‐spectrum antimicrobial treatment can reduce mortality rates in patients with sepsis, severe sepsis or septic shock. Sepsis is a serious medical condition which is characterized by an inflammatory response to an infection that can affect the whole body. The patient may develop this inflammatory response to microbes in their blood, urine, lungs, skin or other tissues. However, there is a risk that empirical broad‐spectrum antimicrobial treatment can expose patients to overuse of antimicrobials and increase the resistance of micro‐organisms to treatment. De‐escalation has been proposed as a means of adjusting initial, adequate broad‐spectrum treatment by changing the antimicrobial agent or discontinuing an antimicrobial combination according to the patient's culture results (a means of identifying the microbe causing the infection). In this updated Cochrane review we searched the databases until October 2012. We found no published randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We found one ongoing RCT. There is no adequate or direct evidence on whether de‐escalation of antimicrobial agents is effective and safe for adults with sepsis, severe sepsis or septic shock. Appropriate studies are needed to investigate the potential benefits proposed by de‐escalation treatment.
See all (126) ...

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...

MedlinePlus.gov links to free, reliable, up-to-date health information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other trusted health organizations.

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...