International Team to Redefine Sepsis and Septic Shock


Sepsis hasn’t really been that well understood ever since the Greeks described in 700 B.C. Despite our medicine having evolved incredibly in the meanwhile, we still know surprisingly little about the affliction. The fact that sepsis is the number one killer in United States hospitals makes this even more concerning. Attempting to raise understanding and help with some guidelines, a team of doctors from Pittsburg led an international team to redefine sepsis and septic shock.

Definition and diagnostic protocol

Leading a team of international experts, doctors from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and from the University Pierre and Marie CURIE came up with a new definition for sepsis and septic shock, as well as with a new way of diagnosing potential patients suffering from the condition.

Describing the condition as a syndrome (a condition involving concurrent symptoms), medical experts defined sepsis as a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by the immune system’s chaotic response to infection.

Meanwhile, septic shock was defined as a subclass of sepsis which profoundly abnormal metabolic, cellular, and circulatory issues are associated with a far greater risk of death than in the case of sepsis alone.

The condition generally results from the body’s exaggerated inflammatory response to infections, particularly those attributed to fungi, bacteria, and viruses, even after a successful antibiotic treatment. Since it can result from even the most minor infection, about one million people in the United States develop sepsis every year, and about half of them die from it.

On the other hand, the diagnostic protocol depends on three symptoms – a fast respiratory rate, an altered mental status, and low blood pressure. If a patient is found to suffer from any two of the three symptoms, he is to be considered to suffer from sepsis, as 75% of those showing two symptoms tend to die from the syndrome.

Still not that well understood

Despite the medical world just having come up with a new definition – or maybe because of that – the medical community still doesn’t understand the condition entirely. The study itself has as a disclaimer the fact that sepsis is not yet fully understood.

It also said that there is no criteria simple and clear enough, clinical or biological, that can help identify sepsis patients. No laboratory technique or imaging procedure can help with identifying sepsis patients either.

Despite this, with the new diagnosis protocol and the new definition, sepsis might finally be a little bit better understood, or at least it may prove less fatal to those unfortunate enough to get the syndrome.

Image source: Wikimedia

About June Harris

June was born and raised in Ligonier, a small historic town in Pennsylvania. She befriended TV cameras at an early age when she was selected to feature in a local TV series for children. Her passion for entertainment grew bigger after June was named Miss Pennsylvania at 16 years old. She was co-opted in various projects ever since and is now a strong promoter of fitness and health activities.
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    Metabolic Theory of Septic Shock
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    Core tip: For decades septic shock has been attributed to an over-active immune response. However, immune modulation has failed to reduce mortality, casting doubt on a direct causal role for the immune response in the development of septic shock. A closer look suggests that septic shock is the result of a generalized build-up of hydrogen peroxide, a toxic cellular by-product generated as a consequence of the hypermetabolic state that accompanies a systemic immune response. This finding points to the systemic accumulation of hydrogen peroxide as a significant risk factor for the development of septic and non-septic shock syndromes.