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Sepsis refers to bacterial infection of the bloodstream. It means that the normal defenses of the body against overwhelming infection are breaking down and bacterial germs are loose and multiplying in the bloodstream. Once this state has arisen, the patient&/39;s chances for recovery begin to dwindle rapidly. Sepsis is a medical emergency requiring swift and decisive intervention. Septic shock and death will follow if this condition is left untreated for long.
For this reason, that the consequences of missing sepsis are so dire, and because the early signs of sepsis may be quite subtle, physicians often perform what is referred to as the "septic workup," which means obtaining culture specimens of blood, urine, and spinal fluid (via lumbar puncture or spinal tap). While awaiting these test results, powerful antibiotics are administered intravenously in high doses until the situation is more clear - whether the patient is truly gravely infected or perhaps suffering from another illness, often viral, which is not serious.
Most septic workups are performed on very young infants, because these children in particular are the most difficult to assess on clinical grounds (physical examination, history or presence of fever, and routine lab tests such as blood count). Most septic workups are false alarms, but they are a small price to pay for saving young lives.