What Is Sepsis?

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Caused by an infection in the bloodstream, sepsis is a leading cause of death, especially for the young, elderly and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems. This life-threatening disease is the number two reason patients are admitted to the hospital (second only to births), and it is also the number one cause for hospital readmissions.

“Sepsis is the body’s toxic response to infection,” says Brian Kim, M.D., an ER doctor and expert on sepsis. “An infection that attracts sepsis can occur anywhere in the body. When you have an infection, even from a tiny cut, the immune system can start attacking organ systems, instead of attacking the infection. This can lead to organ failure, amputation or even death.”

Common causes for sepsis include urinary tract infections, pneumonia and the flu. An infection after a dental procedure, tattoo, body piercing, cut or even a mosquito bite can also cause sepsis.

The quicker the disease is caught and treated, the better the chance of survival without long-term side effects. Seek medical attention right away if you suspect you or your loved one have an infection, and you notice a combination of these symptoms:

• Shivering or fever
• Feelings of extreme pain or discomfort
• Unusually pale or discolored skin
• Sleepiness and difficultly waking up
• Shortness of breath

Act quickly. With early treatment and diagnosis, up to 80 percent of sepsis deaths can be prevented.


To find a doctor near you, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). If you are in the Jackson area or south central Michigan, visit henryfordallegiance.com or call 1-888-862-DOCS.

Dr. Brian Kim specializes in emergency medicine. He serves as the Medical Staff Transformation & Special Projects Medical Director, as well as Chief of Staff, for Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, where he was a key player in the formation of a unique 16-bed sepsis unit, which has provided life-saving care to hundreds of patients with sepsis.

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