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What Is Involved in the Management of Septic Shock?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated May 17, 2024
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Management of septic shock includes giving the patient intravenous fluids and medication to bring the heart rate and blood pressure up. Addressing breathing problems to keep blood oxygen levels adequate is another important intervention in the management of septic shock to prevent organ damage. Some patients need insulin to control blood sugar levels that spike, or nutritional supplements to treat metabolic changes.

Septic shock might set in as the body’s response to bacterial infection that enters the bloodstream. It often occurs in the hospital and represents an emergency situation needing immediate treatment because inflammation typically spreads throughout the body. Sepsis defines an infection that disrupts the normal functioning of the body’s immune system, causing it to attack healthy tissue and organs. About half of all patients with untreated septic shock die when organs fail.

Management of septic shock usually involves drugs to raise blood pressure if levels remain low after administration of fluids. Certain drugs act on neurotransmitters in the brain to increase the heart rate and improve circulation. These patients might feel cold and clammy and begin to turn blue when insufficient oxygen reaches the heart and other vital organs.

In patients who suffer breathing problems, management of septic shock commonly requires intubation and use of a ventilator to provide oxygen. These patients commonly become confused or unconscious, and might sweat profusely. Doctors can check oxygen levels in the blood to diagnose respiratory failure.

Management of septic shock from prolonged infection might warrant treating changes in the patient’s metabolism. When fever persists, muscles might begin breaking down for use as fuel. These conditions might be treated by giving the patient amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals through a nasal tube or intravenously.

The most common causes of sepsis stem from infection after surgery or when pneumonia sets in. Patients who suffer burns or other skin wounds might develop infection that spreads through the bloodstream. Gastrointestinal bleeding represents another underlying condition that might lead to sepsis. Management of septic shock typically includes antibiotics to treat the root cause. In skin wounds, abrasion might be used to remove contaminated tissue.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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