Which signs and symptoms of sepsis can be localized to organ systems?

Updated: Oct 07, 2020
  • Author: Andre Kalil, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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Answer

It is important to identify any potential source of infection. Localizing signs and symptoms referable to organ systems may provide useful clues to the etiology of sepsis and are as follows:

  • Head and neck infections – Severe headache, neck stiffness, altered mental status, earache, sore throat, sinus pain/tenderness, cervical/submandibular lymphadenopathy

  • Chest and pulmonary infections – Cough (especially if productive), pleuritic chest pain, dyspnea, dullness on percussion, bronchial breath sounds, localized rales, any evidence of consolidation

  • Cardiac infections – Any new murmur, especially in patients with a history of injection or IV drug use

  • Abdominal and gastrointestinal (GI) infections – Diarrhea, abdominal pain, abdominal distention, guarding or rebound tenderness, rectal tenderness or swelling

  • Pelvic and genitourinary (GU) infections – Pelvic or flank pain, adnexal tenderness or masses, vaginal or urethral discharge, dysuria, frequency, urgency

  • Bone and soft-tissue infections – Localized limb pain or tenderness, focal erythema, edema, swollen joint, crepitus in necrotizing infections, joint effusions

  • Skin infections – Petechiae, purpura, erythema, ulceration, bullous formation, fluctuance

See Clinical Presentation for more detail.


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