Septicemia

Alternative Names

Blood poisoning; Bacteremia with sepsis

Definition of Septicemia

Septicemia is the presence of bacteria in the blood (bacteremia) and is often associated with severe infections.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Septicemia is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly. It can arise from infections throughout the body, including infections in the lungs, abdomen, and urinary tract. It may come before or at the same time as infections of the bone (osteomyelitis), central nervous system (), heart (endocarditis), or other tissues.

Symptoms

Septicemia can begin with spiking fevers, chills, rapid breathing, and rapid heart rate. The person looks very ill.

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show:

Treatment

Septicemia is a serious condition that requires a hospital stay. You may be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).

Expectations (prognosis)

What to expect depends on the organism involved and how quickly the patient is hospitalized and treatment begins. The death rate is high — more than 50% for some organisms.

Review

Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/28/2009

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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