What is the Pathophysiology of Sepsis?

Angela Crout-Mitchell

The pathophysiology of sepsis is determined by the type, severity, and duration of the condition, and can affect the body in a multitude of ways. Sepsis is a disease known as a systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and has several possible causes, may affect a variety of different types of human tissue, and can result in a variety of adverse outcomes if not treated correctly and swiftly. This illness is often referred to as blood poisoning and manifests most commonly with fever, symptoms of shock, as well as an elevated heart rate. Children and adults can be affected by this disease, and it is most likely to occur during a serious illness or after a major trauma when the immune system's defenses are lower.

A dish of klebsiella oxytoca bacteria, which can cause sepsis.
A dish of klebsiella oxytoca bacteria, which can cause sepsis.

While most people think of sepsis as a bacterial disease, the pathophysiology of sepsis actually can begin with a variety of infectious material types. This condition is the result of an infection in the body caused by fungi, virus, or parasites. Bacteria is considered the most common cause of sepsis, and many cases of this type of infection can be linked to hospital visits, despite the attempts made to keep this environment clean and free of pathogens. Most hospitals take extra precautions with the well being of their intensive care and other high risk patients to help prevent sepsis infections.

Signs of sepsis can include a rapid heart rate.
Signs of sepsis can include a rapid heart rate.

Sepsis is often thought to be a blood disease, though the pathophysiology of sepsis may manifest in a number of different body tissues including the blood, soft tissues, and skin. Occurrences of sepsis can also be found in the lungs, urinary tract, and stomach. In most cases, sepsis is the result of an existing infection which lowers the patient's immune system function, and allows a normally harmless organism to infect the affected body site. Inflammation of the infected area is the first symptom, followed by coagulation of the cells.

Fever is a common sign of sepsis, also known as blood poisoning.
Fever is a common sign of sepsis, also known as blood poisoning.

The combination of inflammation and coagulation of the cells, along with the very high possibility of sepsis spreading to unaffected areas of the body, is one of the reasons this illness is dangerous. During the pathophysiology of sepsis, if the cause and infection are not treated quickly or aggressively enough the infection will move to other areas of the body and can result in multiple organ failure and serious cardiovascular difficulties. Most patients are able to fully recover following a sepsis infection as long as the cause of the infection, whether it is bacterial, viral, or caused by parasites or fungi, is treated and adequate medications and therapies are used to eliminate the sepsis infection.

Sepsis can be the result of a urinary tract infection.
Sepsis can be the result of a urinary tract infection.
Neonatal sepsis is caused by an infection of the blood of infants younger than 90 days.
Neonatal sepsis is caused by an infection of the blood of infants younger than 90 days.

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