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Septic Shock and Third Degree Burns (part I)

One of the complications of severe burn injuries such as third degree burns is septic shock. Septic shock is a serious medical emergency that result from bacteremia ( bacteria in the bloodstream) leading to sepsis which is a systemic immune response to the bacterial toxins, this will lead to a dramatic drop in blood pressure leading to decrease tissue perfusion and decrease oxygen and nutrient supply to the tissues. Septic shock is the number one cause of death in intensive care units and the 13th most common cause of death in U.S (Parrillo, 1990 and US CDC). The mortality rate may reach up to 50%.

Septic shock can cause multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (multiple organ failure) including respiratory system failure and may cause death. Sepsis can be caused by other infectious microorganisms other than bacteria such as fungus and viruses. Septic shock occurs most often in children, elderly and immunocompromised individuals as their immune system is weakened and can’t effectively with infection. Infection can be localized to a particular site but when the immune system is weakened or compromised, the infection can spread to the blood stream causing systemic infection, sepsis and septic shock.

Risk factors for septic shock may include:

  • Severe burns (second and third degree burns) and severe injuries.
  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Aids.
  • Advanced cancer.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Genitourinary tract infections and diseases.
  • Liver cirrhosis.
  • Infections of the abdomen.
  • Indwelling catheters that are kept in place for a long time.
  • Patients using chemotherapy.
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics.
  • Recent surgery, organ transplant or medical procedure.
  • Recent infection.
  • Recent use of certain steroid medications.

Symptoms of septic shock:

Septic shock can affect any organ of the body, symptoms may include:

  • High temperature (fever) > 100.4 degree F or low temperature (hypothermia) < 96.8 degree F, chills.
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) > 90 beats per minute.
  • Palpitation (awareness of the heart beats).
  • High respiratory rate ( hyperventilation) > 20 breaths per minute.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Pale and cool body extremities.
  • Skin rash or discoloration.
  • Little or absent urine out put.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness, lethargy, agitation, disorientation, confusion or coma.
  • Organ failure such as respiratory failure.
  • Gangrene that may lead to amputation.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.