Sepsis is defined by the presence of at least a body temperature above 101°F or below 96.8°F, a heart rate greater than 90 beats per minute and/or a respiratory rate greater than 20 breaths per minute. Cases of severe sepsis are defined by having sepsis symptoms along with one of the following symptoms:
- A major increase in urine
- Significant change in mental state
- Decrease in platelet count
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Abdominal pain
HOW COMMON IS SEPSIS AND SEPTIC SHOCK?
The incidence of sepsis worldwide is not well-known. It is estimated that approximately, 31.5 million cases of sepsis and 19.4 million cases of severe sepsis occur worldwide each year. Over 10% of these cases, or 5.3 million, resulting in death. These statistics are approximations due to little data generated from low- and middle- income countries. Sepsis is also not reported in the WHO Global Burden of Disease report. Because sepsis is associated with a high prevalence of infectious diseases, it is speculated that regions with high infectious disease rates and deaths may contribute to sepsis burden. Studies of hospital-treated sepsis in high-income countries have concluded that the incidence of sepsis is increasing. However, these findings may not be accurate due to the change in the definition of sepsis over the last few decades. It is also possible that more cases are being identified and reported now that there is greater awareness of the illness. Several reports have also concluded that mortality related to sepsis treated in hospitals has declined over the last few decades. However, this may be an underestimation since individuals suffering from another disease may be reported of passing from the primary disease instead of sepsis. While sepsis-related deaths have decreased in hospitals, overall sepsis-related deaths have increased. This is thought to be due to an increase in sepsis cases. Mortality from septic shock appears to also be declining. However, the incidence varies from region.
The Difference between Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock
Septic shock is the most severe stage of sepsis. Septic shock is a subset of sepsis with underlying circulatory and cellular or metabolic abnormalities that are severe enough to be life-threatening. Shock is associated with cardiovascular dysfunction displayed as a continuous hypotension despite there being an adequate fluid volume. Severe sepsis becomes septic shock when, in addition to severe sepsis symptoms, the patient has extremely low blood pressure that cannot be rescued by fluid replacement.