By: Nikki Nies

Sepsis is a life threatening disease that occurs when chemicals are released into the blood to fight infection, leading to inflammation throughout the body.  Blood clotting decreases the blood flow to limbs and internal organs.  The condition can worsen, to septic shock, with one’s blood pressure significantly worsening and can lead to death.

While sepsis contributes to only 1-2% of hospital visits, it’s degree of seriousness should not be taken lightly.  The most common cause is from bacterial infections.  Those most susceptible to developing sepsis have diabetes;elderly; those with recent invasive medical problems, with immune problems–HIV/AIDS, cancer, drugs; very young babies and/or recently hospitalized. Sepsis can accompany osteomyelitis, the infection of the bone.

Symptoms: what_is_sepsis_figure2_thumb

  • Fever
  • Decreased urination
  • Rapid pulse/breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills

In addition, it is recognized by the appearance of 2 or more of the following: temperature: >38 degrees C or <36C; heart rate >90 beats/min; respiratory rate >20 breaths/min or partial pressure of CO2 in arterial gas <32 mm Hg; white blood cell count >12,000 mg/uL or >10% band forms

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT): Management of septic shock includes the ABCDEF system, which stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Drugs, Evaluate and Fix the source of sepsis.   Enteral feeding is the preferred method of feeding over parenteral feeding, with monitoring needed to ensure tolerance with impaired GI motility.   

  • When possible, patient should consume soft diet and liquids of high energy and nutrient value
  • Inclusion of omega 3 fatty acids can help increase plasma eicosapentaeonic acid, improve gas exchange, shorten hospital stay and modify inflammatory cytokine concentrations
  • May need to monitor for signs of malnutrition, as vitamin A, C,D,K, thiamin and folic acid may become depleted
  • Use of branched chain amino acids (BCAA) may become useful for energy since they don’t need to be metabolized to glucose
  • Monitor fluid needs; ensure intake’s excreted properly

While, the above information has been provided with references from the Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care in mind, each patient’s case is different and it is recommended one is seen by a RD to ensure proper nutritional needs are met.


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