Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sepsis - Danger to Nursing Patients

Sepsis is a serious medical condition that is characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state (called a systemic inflammatory response syndrome or SIRS) and the presence of a known or suspected infection. The body may develop this inflammatory response by the immune system to microbes in the blood, urine, lungs, skin, or other tissues. A lay term for sepsis is blood poisoning, more aptly applied to septicemia, below.

Septicemia (also septicaemia or septicæmia [sep⋅ti⋅cæ⋅mi⋅a], or erroneously septasemia and septisema) is a related but sometimes deprecated medical term referring to the presence of pathogenic organisms in the bloodstream, leading to sepsis. The term has not been sharply defined. It has been inconsistently used in the past by medical professionals, for example as a synonym of bacteremia, causing some confusion. International medical consensus, since 1992, is that the term "septicemia" is problematic and should be avoided.

Sepsis is usually treated in the intensive care unit with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. If fluid replacement is insufficient to maintain blood pressure, specific vasopressor medications can be used. Mechanical ventilation and dialysis may be needed to support the function of the lungs and kidneys, respectively. To guide therapy, a central venous catheter and an arterial catheter may be placed. Sepsis patients require preventive measures for deep vein thrombosis, stress ulcers and pressure ulcers, unless other conditions prevent this. Some patients might benefit from tight control of blood sugar levels with insulin (targeting stress hyperglycemia), low-dose corticosteroids or activated drotrecogin alfa (recombinant protein

Prognosis can be estimated with the MEDS score. Approximately 20–35% of patients with severe sepsis and 40–60% of patients with septic shock die within 30 days. Others die within the ensuing 6 months. Late deaths often result from poorly controlled infection, immunosuppression, complications of intensive care, failure of multiple organs, or the patient's underlying disease.

Prognostic stratification systems such as APACHE II indicate that factoring in the patient's age, underlying condition, and various physiologic variables can yield estimates of the risk of dying of severe sepsis. Of the individual covariates, the severity of underlying disease most strongly influences the risk of dying. Septic shock is also a strong predictor of short- and long-term mortality. Case-fatality rates are similar for culture-positive and culture-negative severe sepsis.

Some patients may experience severe long term cognitive decline following an episode of severe sepsis, but the absence of baseline neuropsychological data in most sepsis patients makes the incidence of this difficult to quantify or to study. A preliminary study of nine patients with septic shock showed abnormalities in seven patients by MRI.

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