Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Names: Pyemia, septic fever, septic intoxication, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS).

Formerly called as "blood poisoning."

Septicemia is a serious and even life-threatening infection of the blood. Usually it is caused by bacterial infection, but fungi and other organisms also cause this widespread infection of the bloodstream. “Bacteremia” is another term that denotes the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. Bacteremia is different from septicemia. Bacteremia is not accompanied by sepsis or septic shock.

Septicemia usually results from of an infection elsewhere in the body that leads to a dangerous buildup of bacteria in the bloodstream. The most common areas of infection that lead to septicemia include the abdomen, lungs, urinary tract, bone (osteomyelitis), central nervous system (meningitis) and heart (endocarditis). Other tissues also may be involved.

Risk factors for septicemia include:

    Close contact with someone who has septicemia.

  • Compromised immune system.

  • Cancer chemotherapy or other reasons.

  • Localized infections (of a specific organ, tissue or region).

Septicemia is a very serious illness that can be fatal. It is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately and that you follow your healthcare provider's treatment plan exactly.


Symptoms are related to the chemicals produced during the body's immune response to the massive infection.

Early symptoms of septicemia include:

    Fever and chills.

  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea) or shortness of breath.

  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

  • Sudden high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

As septicemia progresses, symptoms increase in severity and include:

    Changes in mental status.

  • Confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment.

  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

  • Red spots on the skin (petechiae and ecchymosis).


A physical examination may show:

    Low blood pressure.

  • Low body temperature or fever.

  • Signs of associated disease (such as meningitis, epiglottitis, pneumonia, or cellulitis).

Tests that can confirm infection may include:

    Blood culture.

  • Blood gases.

  • CBC.

  • Clotting studies.

  • PT(prothrombin time).

  • PTT (partial thromboplastin time).

  • Fibrinogen levels.

  • CSF culture.

  • Culture of any suspect skin lesion.

  • Platelet count.

  • Urine culture.


Treatment of septicemia requires hospitalization, typically in the intensive care unit (ICU), where you will be given fluids and medications intravenously. You will receive antibiotics to fight the infection, as well as supplemental oxygen, plasma or other blood products to help with blood-clotting problems and other abnormalities. Respiratory support, sometimes in the form of a ventilator (breathing machine) or hemodialysis, may be required.

Sometimes it's necessary to use a combination of antibiotics or to switch antibiotics if a patient isn't responding well to the medications.

One thing that may occur in many cases of this illness is abnormal bleeding or clotting. This is often observable directly under the skin. The treatment for septicemia blood problems may include blood transfusions or platelet transfusions. These may normalize blood levels so that massive internal bleeding does not occur.

You may be able to lower your risk of septicemia by:

    Ensuring that you and your child have been appropriately immunized.

  • Receiving appropriate treatment for localized infections.

  • Receiving vaccinations against common bacterial illnesses.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

Reference and Source are from:

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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