In a previous blog, we discussed the signs and symptoms of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication from an infection. Today we are going to learn more about the diagnostic tests and treatment options that are available for this condition.

Due to the fact that the signs and symptoms of sepsis can potentially be caused by other disorders, diagnosing this condition can be rather difficult. If sepsis is suspected, your primary care physician will perform a variety of tests to try and pinpoint the underlying infection. These tests can include:

Blood tests

Your doctor will collect a sample of your blood that will then be tested for the following:

  • Abnormal liver or kidney function
  • Decreased availability of oxygen
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Evidence of infection
  • Problems with clotting

Beyond a blood test, your doctor could run additional laboratory tests that include:

  • Respiratory secretions– If you are coughing up mucus, your doctor may test it to determine what type of germ is causing the infection.
  • Urine– If your doctor believes that you have a urinary tract infection, he or she may test a sample of your urine for signs of bacteria.
  • Wound secretions– If you have a wound and it appears to be infected, your doctor will test a sample of the wound’s secretions. This information will then be used to determine what type of antibiotic will work best.

In the instance that the location of the infection isn’t obvious, your doctor will most likely order imaging, which can include a computerized tomography (CT) scan, an ultrasound scan or an Xray, in order to better visualize potential infections within the body’s internal structure.

If your doctor diagnoses you with sepsis, there are many available treatment options that vary depending on the site and the cause of the initial infection.

Antibiotics – This form of treatment begins immediately and a variety of antibiotics will be administered through an IV. Once the infection is detected, your doctor will switch to an antibiotic that’s better suited to fight the infection.

Vasopressors – If your blood pressure is too low even after receiving IV fluids, you may be given a vasopressor medication. This type of medication constricts the blood vessels and helps to increase blood pressure.

Supportive care ­– For those with severe sepsis, supportive care, including oxygen and large amounts of IV fluids, will be used. Depending on the severity of the condition, a person could also be placed on a machine to help with breathing or a machine that provides dialysis for kidney failure.

These are the most common diagnostic tests and treatment options that are associated with sepsis. Contact your primary care physician if you would like to learn more about this condition.

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