Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Early, aggressive treatment boosts your chances of surviving sepsis. People with severe sepsis require close monitoring and treatment in a hospital intensive care unit. If you have severe sepsis or septic shock, lifesaving measures may be needed to stabilize breathing and heart function.
A number of medications are used in treating sepsis. They include:
- Antibiotics. Treatment with antibiotics begins immediately — even before the infectious agent is identified. Initially you'll receive broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are effective against a variety of bacteria. The antibiotics are administered intravenously (IV). After learning the results of blood tests, your doctor may switch to a different antibiotic that's more appropriate against the particular bacteria causing the infection.
- Vasopressors. If your blood pressure remains too low even after receiving intravenous fluids, you may be given a vasopressor medication, which constricts blood vessels and helps to increase blood pressure.
Other medications you may receive include low doses of corticosteroids, insulin to help maintain stable blood sugar levels, drugs that modify the immune system responses, and painkillers or sedatives.
People with severe sepsis usually receive supportive care including oxygen and large amounts of intravenous fluids. Depending on your condition, you may need to have a machine help you breathe or dialysis for kidney failure.
Surgery may be needed to remove sources of infection, such as collections of pus (abscesses).
- Sepsis fact sheet. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Publications/factsheet_sepsis.htm. Accessed Oct. 24, 2012.
- Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Oct. 25, 2012.
- .Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed Oct. 25, 2012.
- Chang HJ, et al. Patient page: Sepsis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2010;304:1856.
- About sepsis. Society of Critical Care Medicine. http://www.survivingsepsis.org/Introduction/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed Oct. 25, 2012.
- Antonelli M, et al. Year in review in Intensive Care Medicine 2011. II. Cardiovascular, infections, pneumonia and sepsis, critical care organization and outcome, education, ultrasonography, metabolism and coagulation. Intensive Care Medicine. 2012;38:345.
- Skrupky LP, et al. Advances in the management of sepsis and the understanding of key immunological defects. Anesthesiology. 2011;115:1349.