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Sepsis

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Testing is ordered to help diagnose sepsis, distinguish it from other conditions, and to evaluate and monitor the function of the affected person's organs, blood oxygenation, and acid-base balance.

Laboratory Tests
Testing may include:

  • Gram stain – to detect the presence and identify the type of bacteria in a sample taken from the site of a suspected infection
  • Blood culture – to detect bacteria in the blood and evaluate their susceptibility to antibiotics
  • Urine culture and cultures of other body fluids as indicated – to detect the source and type of infection
  • Procalcitonin – sometimes used to distinguish sepsis from other conditions that cause similar symptoms; the level of procalcitonin in the blood increases rapidly and significantly when a person has sepsis.
  • Complete blood count (CBC) – to evaluate red and white blood cells and platelets
  • Lactate – increased levels can indicate organ dysfunction
  • Blood gases – to evaluate oxygen in the blood and acid-base balance
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) – to monitor the health of organs, such as the kidneys and lungs, and monitor electrolyte balance and blood glucose level
  • PT and/or PTT or other clotting tests to evaluate clotting status
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) – to detect inflammation in the body

In addition to the tests listed above, CSF analysis may sometimes be ordered if it is thought that the person has an infection of the central nervous system (meningitis).

Other tests as indicated may be done to help evaluate health status or to identify or rule out complications or other conditions, such as cardiac biomarkers to detect a heart attack.

Non-Laboratory Tests
These tests may be ordered to evaluate the health of organs, detect complications, and to identify the location of infection:

  • ECG – to evaluate heart rhythm or injury
  • X-ray
  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Ultrasound

For more on imaging studies, see the web site RadiologyInfo.org.

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