What is Involved in the Diagnosis of Sepsis?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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While many illnesses and conditions have straightforward diagnosis procedures, diagnosing sepsis is often a bit more difficult. This is due to the fact that the symptoms of sepsis are very similar to the symptoms of other conditions. To make an accurate diagnosis of sepsis, doctors usually use blood tests and may also analyze other bodily fluids, such as urine, spinal fluid, and fluid from a wound on a patient’s body. In some cases, diagnostic imaging tests may prove helpful as well.

Sepsis occurs when an infection causes inflammation that adversely affects tissues throughout the body. This condition is life threatening, and a patient may have the best chance for survival if he receives early treatment. Before treatment can begin, however, a doctor must accurately diagnose the condition. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of sepsis is not always a simple process. In many cases, the symptoms of the condition are easy to confuse with other diseases and illnesses, and doctors often have to use a range of diagnostic tests to pinpoint the problem.


An analysis of the patient’s symptoms may provide a starting point for the diagnosis of sepsis. Some of the common symptoms of sepsis include a temperature that is above 101.3°F (about 38.5°C) or below 95°F (about 35°C). A higher-than-normal heart rate or high rate of respiration may also appear as a symptom of the condition. Additionally, an imbalance of electrolytes, which are salts in a patient's body, may also indicate the possible presence of sepsis.

When a person has a serious case of sepsis, his skin may appear mottled and his urine output may decrease significantly. He also may experience changes in his mental state, difficulty breathing, and altered heart function. An individual with a severe case of sepsis may also experience a dramatic and dangerous drop in his blood pressure.

In addition to analyzing symptoms, a doctor may order blood tests to help in the diagnosis of sepsis. For example, he may have a patient’s blood tested for infection, imbalances of electrolytes, and kidney or liver problems. Likewise, he may have the patient's blood tested to reveal clotting issues; urine, wound, and spinal fluid tests also may be used to reveal infections. Additionally, a doctor may use diagnostic imaging tests, such as x-rays and ultrasounds, to look for areas of infection in the body. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans may be used for this purpose as well.



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