What is the difference between bacteremia and sepsis?

Although bacteremia and sepsis are closely related, they are two separate conditions. The simple presence of bacteria in the blood is known as bacteremia. It can be transient, where small amounts of bacteria are in the blood for a limited period of time, or it can be sustained, where the bacteria persist and multiply in the bloodstream. The sustained form of bacteremia is usually what leads to sepsis, which is the body's immune response to the presence of the bacteria. This life-threatening condition, sometimes called blood poisoning, involves a body-wide inflammatory response and is characterized by increased body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate, and in its severe form can lead to organ failure, high blood pressure extremely low or septic shock.

Bacteremia and sepsis do not necessarily occur just because bacteria enter the bloodstream. In cases where only a small number of bacteria enter the blood, for example when bacteria in the mouth enter through the gums, the body can easily remove them without negative results. These transient cases of bacteremia usually don't even cause symptoms.

When a person has large numbers of bacteria in their blood, or is in a situation where bacteria continue to be introduced over a period of time, they will often develop sustained bacteremia and sepsis. One situation where this can occur is when a person has surgery in an area such as the intestines, where there are large numbers of bacteria, and the incision allows them to pass into the bloodstream. Once sepsis sets in, the person will typically experience systemic inflammatory response syndrome, or SIRS, a condition where inflammation is present throughout the body, causing increases in body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as a significant increase in white blood. cells.

In severe cases, or if treatment is not given promptly, bacteremia and sepsis can progress to severe sepsis or even septic shock. Patients with severe sepsis may experience organ failure such as the lungs, kidneys, or heart. They may develop hypotension, or extremely low blood pressure, and hypoperfusion, or decreased blood flow to the organs. If these conditions progress to the point that fluid resuscitation does not relieve hypotension, the patient may be considered to be in septic shock, which is extremely dangerous and often fatal.

Go up