Septic shock

  • Definition

    Septic shock is a serious condition that occurs when an overwhelming infection leads to life-threatening low blood pressure.

    See also:

    • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
    • Disseminated intravascular coagulation
    • Meningococcemia
    • Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome

    Alternative Names

    Bacteremic shock; Endotoxic shock; Septicemic shock; Warm shock


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Septic shock occurs most often in the very old and the very young. It also occurs in people who have other illnesses.

    Any type of bacteria can cause septic shock. Fungi and (rarely) viruses may also cause the condition. Toxins released by the bacteria or fungi may cause tissue damage, and may lead to low blood pressure and poor organ function. Some researchers think that blood clots in small arteries cause the lack of blood flow and poor organ function.

    The body also produces a strong inflammatory response to the toxins. This inflammation may contribute to organ damage.

    Risk factors for septic shock include:

    • Diabetes
    • Diseases of the genitourinary system, biliary system, or intestinal system
    • Diseases that weaken the immune system such as AIDS
    • Indwelling catheters (those that remain in place for extended periods, especially intravenous lines and urinary catheters and plastic and metal stents used for drainage)
    • Leukemia
    • Long-term use of antibiotics
    • Lymphoma
    • Recent infection
    • Recent surgery or medical procedure
    • Recent use of steroid medications