Severe sepsis is a medical crisis where a patient's entire body experiences inflammation in response to an underlying infection. The term “severe sepsis” is a bit misleading, as it suggests there are less dangerous forms of this condition when in fact all stages of sepsis are dangerous. In the case of patients with severe sepsis, the inflammation is reaching a crisis point and there is a risk that the patient will fall into septic shock as the body becomes overloaded by the inflammatory processes occurring in multiple locations.
In sepsis, inflammation is not isolated to one area of the body, but occurs across the body. Patients typically develop a high fever and may experience pain, soreness, and myriad symptoms as a cascading series of reactions occurs. Inflammation stresses internal organs like the liver and kidneys, and can damage the heart, lungs, and brain. Often, the stress creates a spike in blood sugar levels, known as hyperglycemia, putting additional strain on the body, and blood pressure tends to rise as well.
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A patient in severe sepsis is considered in critical condition as a result of the damage caused by the inflammation. The patient may not be able to breathe independently and could have a medical problem like increased pressure inside the skull caused by swelling. Treatment of severe sepsis is complex, as the patient's failing organs must be addressed individually while also not losing track of the larger whole. The patient may require dialysis to take over for overloaded kidneys along with high doses of antibiotics to manage infection, surgery, and other treatment measures. Sometimes, insulin is used to bring blood sugar levels down.
Untreated, severe sepsis can proceed to septic shock, coma, and death. Treatment of patients with sepsis is aimed at preventing the crisis point represented by severe sepsis by providing patients with aggressive treatment and supportive care to head off problems like organ failure before they happen. Medical personnel are trained to act quickly in cases of suspected sepsis to provide the appropriate interventions and keep the patient as stable as possible.
Even with very high quality medical care in an advanced facility, sepsis can kill. Patients who were ill or weak before the inflammation occurred may not be able to pull through, and otherwise healthy people can experience severe complications, eventually leading to death, as a result of aggressive and unstoppable inflammation. When sepsis proceeds to the severe point, it is an indicator that the patient is in serious danger.