Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. According to recent estimates, one in eighteen deaths in Canada involves sepsis, making it the twelfth leading cause of death nationally. Globally, sepsis affects an estimated 18 million people each year. The condition remains a leading cause of death in the Global South.
Many patients diagnosed with sepsis require care in the Intensive Care Unit, placing a considerable burden on the healthcare system. The cost of treating sepsis in Canada amounts to $325 million annually. Even as the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis improve, rates are on the rise.
In 2016, a team of global experts came together to redefine sepsis. The new guidelines, called Sepsis-3, split the condition into two subgroups based on severity: sepsis and septic shock.
Sepsis is a result of immune dysfunction and can progress to septic shock.
Diagnosis of sepsis is based on a score called the quick Sepsis Related Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA), which includes:
Septic shock is the progression of sepsis, leading to a drastic decrease in blood pressure resulting in a high likelihood of death. Physicians look for two additional symptoms when diagnosing septic shock:
Sepsis does not discriminate between race, age, or sex; however, certain factors can increase your risk of developing the condition. Untreated infections are the primary cause of sepsis, but any infection puts patients at risk. Infections commonly leading to sepsis include: pneumonia, abdominal infections, kidney and urinary tract infections, certain viruses like the flu, and parasites like malaria. It is important to visit a physician as soon as you suspect that you or a loved one may have an infection.
Other risk factors include:
Chronic disease (ex. Diabetes, Heart Disease, or COPD)
Being 75+ years of age
Drug use, especially by injection
Tobacco and tobacco product consumption
Use of immunosuppressive agents (ex. chemotherapy, corticosteroids)
people are affected by sepsis worldwide
spent on treating sepsis annually in Canada alone
ranked leading cause of death in Canada