Sepsis, or systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), is an infection that enters the bloodstream. Sepsis treatment includes medication to treat the infection as well as medications to treat other symptoms of the disease. The most common medications used to treat sepsis are antibiotics, vasopressors, corticosteroids, insulin, immune stimulants, painkillers, and sedatives. Therapy or surgery may also be required.
The main line of defense against infection is antibiotics. The healthcare provider will prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic to fight the sepsis infection, while waiting for cultures to determine the exact nature of the infection. Once the bacteria is cultured, the doctor can prescribe a more specific antibiotic to target the bacteria. These antibiotics are typically given intravenously.
Vasopressors are used when a patient's blood pressure drops very low. Low blood pressure increases the risk of developing septic shock, a serious complication of sepsis. Vasopressor medications constrict the blood vessels, which increases blood pressure.
Other forms of sepsis treatment depend on what symptoms a patient is experiencing. Insulin is often used to stabilize blood sugars, which can fluctuate in patients with sepsis. Corticosteroids appear to reduce the incidence of sepsis developing into septic shock. Medicines that boost the immune system help the body fight off the infection that lead to sepsis. Painkillers and sedatives help the patient deal with discomfort associated with infection.
Patients receiving sepsis treatment may require supportive therapy while they recover. This can include treatment such as IV fluids, oxygen, or supportive breathing through a respirator. If the septic infection developed from a medical device, such as a drainage tube or IV line, it may be necessary to remove the device. If the infection has left behind pockets of infection, surgical removal may be required.
The effectiveness of sepsis treatment is increased by catching the infection early, and beginning treatment immediately. Healthcare providers will begin treatment while trying to isolate the source of infection. Common areas of origination include the skin, lungs, bowels, gall bladder, liver, and kidneys. People at the greatest risk of developing septic shock include those with compromised immune systems, people in the hospital, those with invasive medical devices, such as breathing tubes, and the very young and old.
Symptoms of sepsis include elevated heart rate and respiratory rate, fever, mottled skin, decrease in urine production, decreased platelet count, trouble breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, and a change in mental status. A patient who experiences these symptoms plus a drop in blood pressure is suffering from septic shock. Septic shock is a potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to organ shutdown and tissue death.