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What causes sepsis in someone with pneumonia?

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Quick Answer

Pneumonia patients develop sepsis or septicemia when the infection affecting the lungs escapes into the bloodstream causing a systemic inflammatory reaction, reports WebMD. Sepsis can result in life-threatening complications including septic shock, which results in dangerously low blood pressure and organ failure due to blood clots.

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Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria most frequently progress into sepsis, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients with the greatest risk of developing sepsis include those 65 years of age and older, those with invasive medical devices, such as intubation tubes and catheters, and those with weakened or compromised immune systems such as human immunodeficiency virus, cancer, organ transplant and burn patients.

Treatment approaches to sepsis include broad-spectrum antibiotics, supplemental oxygen and intravenous fluids to maintain sufficient blood pressure, notes WebMD. Doctors can select a more effective antibiotic to treat the patient when a tissue culture identifies the specific infectious agent. Doctors may also use other supportive treatments, such as breathing treatments and prescription medications, to elevate blood pressure. Severe sepsis generally results in hospital admission to the intensive care unit for treatment and can leave the patient with permanent organ failure if he survives the condition, which is fatal in 28 to 50 percent of affected patients.

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