Septic shock

18 April 2017
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18 April 2017, Comments: 0

Septic shock is a medical emergency that can be life-threatening. It occurs once the blood pressure rapidly drops and remains low after an infection developed.

How does it develop?

If an individual develops an infection, the immune system attempts to protect the body by releasing additional white blood cells that are programmed to find and eliminate invading organisms. If it goes well, the immune system fights off the infection but might require assistance from some medications such as antivirals or antibiotics.

In case the organism enters the bloodstream, it rapidly multiples and spreads all over the body. Once this occurs, toxic substances are released that poison the blood vessels and impair the immune system.

In some instances, the immune system functions erratically and turns on itself and attacks the healthy cells. Once this occurs, sepsis develops. It is the toxic response of the body to the infection.

What are the indications?

The initial indications of sepsis might be vague but can include the following:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Higher or lower body temperature

    Septic shock

    In case the infection is not properly treated or controlled at this point, sepsis can become severe.

The blood tests might indicate a higher than normal number of white blood cells in the blood. In case the infection is not properly treated or controlled at this point, sepsis can become severe. One or several organs start to malfunction and tiny blood clots might form in the blood, limiting the blood flow to the limbs. In severe cases of sepsis that is not promptly treated, it can progress to septic shock.


Individuals with septic shock require immediate intensive care.

  • Elevating the blood pressure using IV fluids along with vasopressors which constrict the blood vessels to increase the blood pressure to send blood to the vital organs.
  • Dealing with the infection using antibiotics.
  • Oxygen therapy via a mask or tube to deliver oxygen.
  • Surgery might be done to clear out the infection or eliminate dead tissue

It is important to note that septic shock can be prevented. If an infection is present, it is vital to monitor for the indications of sepsis. If sepsis is suspected, bring the individual to the emergency department right away. Immediate treatment can help save lives.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on septic shock is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage shock, register for a first aid and CPR course with Ottawa First Aid.

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