Health A-Z


Clinical Definition

Septicemia is bacteremia that occurs especially with severe infections of the lungs, abdomen and urinary tract. It may occur before or with osteomyelitis, meningitis, endocarditis or other infections. Chills, high fever, rapid heart rate and respirations are common at the onset, progressing to petechiae and ecchymosis, shock and confusion. Diagnosis is by blood culture, blood gases, CBC, clotting studies and other tests. Antibiotics, IV fluids, oxygen and blood products are the mainstays of treatment.

In Our Own Words

Septicemia, or blood poisoning, is a serious condition, requiring a hospital stay, sometimes in the intensive care unit (ICU). It occurs when disease-causing organisms gain access to the blood, often from an infection elsewhere in the body, such as the lungs, urinary tract or abdomen.

Chills, high fever, fast breathing and rapid heart rate can be among the symptoms. Later, red spots may show up on the skin and mental confusion can set in. Medical attention is crucial, and tests may include blood cultures, blood gas tests, clotting studies and other measures. Treatment includes antibiotics, fluids and medicines by IV to maintain blood pressure, along with oxygen, plasma or other blood products to relieve clotting problems.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Chills
  • Red spots on skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast heart rate
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