What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a serious medical condition. It's caused by an overwhelming immune response to infection. The body releases immune chemicals into the blood to combat the infection. Those chemicals trigger widespread inflammation, which leads to blood clots and leaky blood vessels. As a result, blood flow is impaired, and that deprives organs of nutrients and oxygen and leads to organ damage.
In severe cases, one or more organs fail. In the worst cases, blood pressure drops, the heart weakens, and the patient spirals toward septic shock. Once this happens, multiple organs—lungs, kidneys, liver—may quickly fail, and the patient can die.
Sepsis is a major challenge in hospitals, where it’s one of the leading causes of death. It's also a main reason why people are readmitted to the hospital. Sepsis occurs unpredictably and can progress rapidly.
What causes sepsis?
Many types of microbes can cause sepsis, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Most sepsis is caused by bacterial infections, but it can be a complication of other infections, including viral infections, such as COVID-19 or influenza.
Severe cases of sepsis often result from a body-wide infection that spreads through the bloodstream. In some cases, bloodstream infection cannot be detected, and doctors use other information such as body temperature and mental status to diagnose sepsis.
Sepsis often results from infections to the lungs, stomach, kidneys, or bladder. Sometimes, sepsis can occur in people who didn’t know that they had an infection.