Why is oxygen uptake limited in sepsis/septic shock?

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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Although cardiac output is elevated, the arterial−mixed venous oxygen difference is usually narrow, and the blood lactate level is elevated. This implies that low global tissue oxygen extraction is the mechanism that may limit total body oxygen uptake in septic shock. The basic pathophysiologic problem seems to be a disparity between oxygen uptake and oxygen demand in the tissues, which may be more pronounced in some areas than in others.

This disparity is termed maldistribution of blood flow, either between or within organs, with a resultant defect in the capacity for local extraction of oxygen. During a fall in the oxygen supply, cardiac output becomes distributed so that the most vital organs, such as the heart and brain, remain relatively better perfused than nonvital organs are. However, sepsis leads to regional changes in oxygen demand and regional alteration in the blood flow of various organs.

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