Recognizing sepsis

The symptoms of sepsis usually develop quickly and can include:

  • fever (≥ 38 °C) or low temperature(≤ 36°C)
  • sudden confusion
  • increased heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • rapid breathing
  • patients often look pale or grey-pale

Every second counts!

Two of our members, Prof. Dr. Brunkhorst and Prof. Dr. Reinhart, have devoted their life to fighting sepsis.

Recognition of sepsis

Recognition and treatment

Treatment recommendations

The faster sepsis is recognized, the better are the chances to survive it.

What makes the diagnosis of sepsis so difficult is that the symptoms are often nonspecific. Many of them, such as fever, chills, increased heart rate or mental confusion, may as well be related to an influenza.

So what to do?

One thing must be clear: if all symptoms occur at once, this is a body's call for help and you should get immediate medical attention!

Thanks to new methods in blood diagnostics, sepsis can be recognised earlier and thus be treated adequately and faster.

Sepsis is proceeding differently in each patient. In the worst case it may lead to multi-organ dysfunction, e.g. the failure of several organs - which leads to death if not treated on a critical care unit.

Sepsis is an emergency - every minute counts! The earlier an adequate antibiotic therapy is started, the more likely it is that the patient wins the fight against sepsis.

However, there's no 100% chance of recovery or survival. On the one hand antibiotics are effective only against bacteria. On the other hand an early diagnosis and a fast detection of the infection cause are major conditions for an optimum treatment.

Beside starting antibiotic treatment, physicians will search the source of infection and will ideally remove it. This is possible with an inflamed spleen for example but not with a pneumonia. In about 10% of the sepsis cases the source of infection can't be found initially.


In the medical field there are so called guidelines - a document that gives recommendations regarding prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a disease. Although sepsis research is a relatively young discipline,  such a guideline already exists for sepsis: Reinhart, K., Brunkhorst F. M. et al. (2010): "Prävention, Diagnose, Therapie und Nachsorge der Sepsis".  ISBN-10: 3-13-137361-X.