What is abdominal sepsis?

Abdominal sepsis is a condition in which a patient develops an infection in one of the organs located in the abdominal cavity, such as the appendix, intestine, or pancreas. Bacteria from this infection can enter the patient's bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Prompt diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, along with surgical treatment in some patients, are required to eradicate the infection. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal. Abdominal sepsis can be a primary, secondary, or tertiary infection.

When abdominal sepsis is a primary infection, there is no obvious cause. Small sacs of fluid in the abdomen, called ascites, can spontaneously become infected. Patients with liver disease, such as cirrhosis, are more likely to develop ascites and are therefore more likely to develop primary abdominal sepsis infections. Ascites is usually painless, and the only symptom that the patient may notice before the infection is an increase in the size of their abdomen. Although several different bacteria can cause ascites infection, E. coli is It is among the most common in patients with primary sepsis.

Any type of trauma to an abdominal organ, such as rupture or surgery, can lead to abdominal sepsis as a secondary infection. The abdominal cavity, or peritoneal environment, is typically sterile. If an infected organ ruptures, the bacteria from that infection can contaminate the area and lead to sepsis. Rupture due to injury can cause a healthy organ to leak fluid into the abdominal cavity. This fluid can irritate the cavity, triggering an immune response and causing sepsis despite the original lack of bacteria.

Minor operations in patients who do not already have an active infection or serious injury to the abdominal organs are unlikely to lead to secondary abdominal sepsis. However, in cases of major injury or preexisting infection, the risk of sepsis may be greater than 50 percent. Most cases of sepsis are of the secondary type.

Tertiary infection only develops after therapy for primary or, more commonly, secondary intra-abdominal sepsis. In these cases, the bacterial infection is persistent despite an adequate course of treatment for the original infection. A weakened immune system increases the likelihood that the patient will develop a tertiary sepsis infection. Patients will often develop abdominal abscesses with this type of bacterial infection, and will usually require additional surgical procedures to recover. Severe primary or secondary abdominal sepsis is more likely to cause a tertiary infection than a milder bacterial infection.

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