Sepsis is a condition that starts with a widespread infection throughout the body and grows to life threatening condition. In sepsis, the body's response to the infection creates a new problem, one that traditional antibiotics are unlikely to treat. Persons at risk for sepsis include those who have experienced trauma and those with chronic disease, low immune function, recent surgery and those with large wounds. Symptoms of sepsis include fever, rapid heart rate and rapid breathing. In more severe cases, blood pressure drops and shock may occur.


The cause of sepsis is unknown. While we are learning more about sepsis all the time, we do not know why it occurs. We do know if follows an infection. The most important way to stop sepsis is to prevent infections.


An international effort is underway to treat sepsis (the Surviving Sepsis Campaign). Therapies such as treating the infection with appropriate antibiotics are essential for success. New treatments like Xigris (activated protein C) and goal directed therapy are promising. Rapid treatment is urgent in sepsis. The longer treatment is delayed, the less likely sepsis can be treated effectively.


Sepsis can be very dangerous even when optimally treated. Sepsis can lead to widespread organ damage and organ failure making it one of the most common causes of death in ICU patients.

Related Links

National Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about sepsis.