What is Urinary Sepsis?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2018
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Urinary sepsis is a serious infection that can result in septic shock and premature death if treatment is delayed or absent. Also known as systemic inflammatory response syndrome, this condition may occur in individuals who have a urinary catheter or those diagnosed with a severe urinary tract infection (UTI). Timely and aggressive treatment is essential to a good prognosis, generally involving the administration of antibiotic medications, intravenous fluids, and, in some cases, surgery.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs as a result of the immune system's overactive inflammatory response to a bacterial infection. Under normal circumstances, the immune system controls the body's inflammatory response, keeping swelling restricted to the site of infection. When the immune system overreacts and inflammation spreads, the body's defenses overcompensate and blood clots form throughout the circulatory system. As numerous, tiny blood clots circulate unchecked throughout the body, the delivery of oxygenated blood becomes compromised and organ functions are jeopardized.

If treatment is delayed, organ and tissue health may become severely compromised. What start out as microscopic blood clots can quickly grow and settle in arterial passages as obstructions that restrict blood flow. The prolonged deprivation of oxygenated blood to vital tissues and organs can result in the development of gangrene and organ failure. A diagnosis of urinary sepsis is generally made once other conditions, whose symptoms may mimic those of sepsis, are ruled out.


There are a variety of laboratory tests that may be administered to evaluate the blood's ability to clot and check for indications of infection. Individuals with a known urinary tract infection may undergo a battery of blood tests and a urinalysis to identify and evaluate the responsible bacterial presence and assess any chemical or compound imbalances. If the infection is suspected of originating with a catheter, secretion samples may be taken from the catheter site and analyzed. Imaging tests may also be used to evaluate the condition and functionality of the kidneys and bladder.

Signs and symptoms associated with sepsis may vary depending on the severity of infection. A diagnosis may only be established if the individual demonstrates at least two of the required symptoms of infection. Septic individuals must exhibit signs that can include active infection and accelerated respiration or elevated heart rate in the presence of fever. Symptom progression can include impaired respiration, compromised cognition and reduced urine output. The presentation of any of these symptoms accompanied by a drastic drop in blood pressure is indicative of septic shock.

Individuals diagnosed with urinary sepsis require hospitalization and aggressive treatment to increase their chances for survival. Antibiotic and analgesic medications are generally administered intravenously along with fluids to stabilize blood glucose and electrolytes, and prevent dehydration. When sepsis infection has progressed to impair respiratory function, supplemental oxygen may be administered to ease the patient’s ability to breathe. Severe infection caused by a catheter may necessitate surgery to remove the catheter and any abscess formation or remaining infection.


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