Blood infection, one of the common complications after a surgery, can lead to widespread inflammation, and ultimately, organ damage. Read the HealthHearty article to find out what are the causes, risk factors, and possible treatment options.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.
Blood infection, medically known as sepsis or septicemia, is a condition where the body fights a severe infection, which has spread through the bloodstream. If a person becomes “septic”, he/she would be in a state of low blood pressure called “shock”. The body’s own defense mechanism or some toxic substance made by bacteria or virus develops the condition. As there are various types of infection, understanding which of these is septicemia (the most common infection) is important. If you or someone you know is recovering from surgery, it is beneficial if you are able to identify the infection after surgery right away. This way, your surgeon can prescribe you antibiotics and/or other necessary therapies to prevent the infection altogether (or from spreading).
Identifying the causes is vital in order to start treatment immediately. Sepsis can be caused due to many different microbes. But typically, bacteria, viruses and fungi are the main causes. Any kind of infection in a person’s lungs (pneumonia), inflammation of body tissue (cellulitis), meningitis, bladder and kidneys (urinary tract infections) and abdomen (ruptured appendix) can distribute and contribute to sepsis.
People at Risk
- Young (children and babies) and elderly people have low immune system and can’t fight against microbes effectively.
- People suffering from an illness such as cancer, cirrhosis, AIDS and diabetes, or are taking immunosuppressive medications.
- Patients undergoing cancer treatment with chemotherapy drugs or radiation weakens their immune system as well.
- Prone towards developing the infection after going through a surgery are patients who don’t have a spleen or are taking steroids (especially when it’s since a long time).
- Even those who have large burns and severe injuries are at risk of developing sepsis.
Symptoms and Signs of Infection
- Often, a person who has sepsis, will also have fever. The body temperature may not indicate it so, as it could be normal or even low.
- Along with fever, that person will experience chills and severe shaking.
- Heartbeat may increase and the breathing will become rapid as well. Low blood pressure is also observed in septic patients.
- Other signs are confusion, disorientation, agitation, dizziness and decreased urination.
- A common symptom of sepsis is developing skin rashes. It appears reddish, discolored and/or small, dark red dots all over the body.
- If the incision(s) made during the surgery feel hot to touch, are swelling and/or hardening, the tissue feels inflamed are turning red, draining foul-smelling pus and/or are hurting, this may indicate sepsis as well.
Sepsis should be looked as a medical emergency, and the person should immediately seek treatment/consult with the surgeon. The intelligent thing would be to call your doctor, as soon as you or a loved one shows the symptoms and signs mentioned above for sepsis. Your doctor needs to conduct various tests like blood work (blood culture), samples of mucus, urine, spinal fluid and/or abscess contents, CT scan, chest X-ray, and also check the patient’s heart rate and rhythm. Depending on your age, medical history, symptoms and present medications and treatments, your doctor will advice you about which course of treatment is apt for you. Don’t overlook his/her advice and follow them religiously.
Even though it seems like only elderly people, infants and people who are suffering from any illnesses are prone to the infection, however, you’d be surprised to know that even healthy people (with no prior illnesses) can develop sepsis. So, it is essential to start the treatment as early as possible, as it will make the outcome positive.