• Clinical science



Sepsis is an acute life-threatening condition characterized by organ dysfunction due to a dysregulated immune response to infection. The previously widely used term “systemic inflammatory response syndrome” (SIRS) is now considered outdated because its criteria were too simplified. Initial infection is generally bacterial and commonly of respiratory, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, dermatological, or soft tissue origin. Risk factors include immunocompromise, chronic comorbidities (e.g., diabetes mellitus), young or old age, and lengthy or invasive medical care. Patients may present with fever, tachycardia, confusion, and signs of the primary infection. Organ dysfunction is determined using a sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score that considers multiple parameters, but may be quickly evaluated and assumed if two of the following findings are present: tachypnea, hypotension, and altered mental status. Diagnostic workup focuses on determining the responsible pathogen via cultures and identifying the source of infection (e.g., via imaging, ECG, lumbar puncture). Laboratory findings are largely nonspecific. Prompt, aggressive treatment is vital to survival and consists of resuscitation, empiric antibiotic therapy, and control of the infectious source.




2015 criteria and SOFA classification (The third international consensus definitions for sepsis and septic shock, Sepsis-3)

Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score (SOFA score) [8][9]

Organ dysfunction and score 0 1 2 3 4


PaO2/FiO2 (mmHg)

≥ 400 < 400 < 300 < 200 with respiratory support < 100 with respiratory support


Platelets x 103/mm3

≥ 150 < 150 < 100 < 50 < 20


Bilirubin (mg/dL)

< 1.2 1.2–1.9 2.0–5.9 6.0–11.9 > 12.0

Cardiovascular system

MAP ≥ 70 mmHg


< 70 mmHg

Dopamine < 5,

or dobutamine

(any dose)*

Dopamine > 5.1–15, or

epinephrine ≤ 0.1, or

norepinephrine ≤ 0.1*

Dopamine > 15, or

epinephrine > 0.1, or

norepinephrine > 0.1*

Central nervous system

Glasgow Coma Scale

15 13–14 10–12 6–9 < 6

Renal system

Creatinine (mg/dL) or urine output (mL/d)

< 1.2 1.2–1.9 2.0–3.4


or < 500

> 5.0

or < 200

Abbreviations: PaO2 = partial pressure of oxygen; FiO2 = fraction of inspired oxygen; MAP = mean arterial blood pressure

* Catecholamine doses are administered as μg/kg /min for ≥ 1 hour



An adequate immune response requires a balance between proinflammatory (anti-infectious) and anti-inflammatory signals!

Clinical features





In addition to immediate resuscitation and empiric therapy, the infectious focus must be identified and treated!


Critical illness polyneuropathy is a common cause of prolonged weaning from mechanical ventilation in a patient with sepsis!

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

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last updated 07/09/2020
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