What Factors Are Involved in a Septic Shock Diagnosis?

C. Webb

Septic shock is a life-threatening condition caused by a significant infection that leads to dangerously low blood pressure. High-risk groups for contracting septic shock include the elderly and children. Toxins released into the body during the course of septic shock can cause irreversible tissue damage. Factors considered when making a septic shock diagnosis include recent medical history, chronic disease, and overall health.

Intravenous fluids and medications are often used to treat septic shock.
Intravenous fluids and medications are often used to treat septic shock.

Prior medical events are considered in septic shock diagnosis. A patient who recently had surgery or recovered from an infection is at increased risk for developing septic shock. Those recently treated for lymphoma, leukemia, or intestinal illnesses are more susceptible to developing the infection.

The death rate for septic shock is high.
The death rate for septic shock is high.

Chronic diseases are also considered in the diagnosis of septic shock. Any disease that impairs the immune system is considered a risk factor. Examples of such diseases include AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis. Diabetes also places patients at a higher risk for developing septic shock.

Symptoms of septic shock include reduced urine output, rapid heart rate, skin discoloration, confusion, pale arms or legs, low or high body temperature, and shortness of breath. Patients can have one or several symptoms at the same time. Blood tests are often inconclusive for septic shock until several days after it has appeared.

Other medical tests can point to septic shock. Chest x-rays may show pneumonia, while low blood oxygen levels indicate generalized infection and urine screening may point to a bladder infection. If symptoms of septic shock are present and medical tests show infection in the body, the patient is typically treated for septic shock while waiting for more definitive test results.

When a septic shock diagnosis is expected, the patient is usually moved into the intensive care unit. Possible treatments include being placed on a ventilator for breathing, medication to boost blood pressure and fight infection, and intravenous fluids to combat dehydration. In some cases, surgery is needed to remove damaged tissue.

Septic shock causes the body to have a high inflammatory response. This response can damage organs beyond repair. Medications designed specifically to fight a high inflammatory response are often helpful in the treatment of septic shock.

The death rate from septic shock is high. Early septic shock diagnosis and aggressive treatments are necessary. Considering all possible factors in the diagnosis of septic shock can help get treatment started at the earliest opportunity.

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