What Is a Sepsis Protocol?

A dish of klebsiella oxytoca bacteria, which can cause sepsis.
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  • Written By: Andrea Sigust
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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A sepsis protocol, also referred to as a sepsis bundle treatment, is a set of guidelines for treating sepsis. Sepsis is a medical condition in which the body responds to a potentially serious bacterial infection in the blood by developing critically widespread inflammation. The premise for creating a sepsis protocol is to lower the rate of progression and mortality by administering an organized and targeted treatment approach as efficiently as possible.

The terms "sepsis" and "systemic inflammatory response syndrome" (SIRS) are often used interchangeably, and although they are related, they are different conditions. SIRS is a whole-body inflammatory response that can be caused by various things such as trauma, burns and hemorrhage. When SIRS is caused by infection, then it is called sepsis.

There are several types of bacteria that can cause sepsis, including meningococcus and pneumococci. The bacteria can enter and start an infection anywhere in the body, such as through the bowel, liver, lungs, skin and kidney. When hospitalized patients develop sepsis, common infection sites include surgical wounds, drains, intravenous lines and bedsores.

Symptoms of sepsis vary and can include chills, decreased urine output, fever and a severe drop in blood pressure. Some of the earliest signs of sepsis include delirium and hyperventilation. Shock and a failure of body systems and major organs are signs of advanced sepsis.


Millions of people worldwide are affected by sepsis, which has a high mortality rate. This is in part because sepsis is not easily diagnosed — especially in a critical care environment. A person who suffers from sepsis exhibits symptoms that are similar to many conditions, including primary conditions for which the patient might already be receiving treatment. By the time sepsis is diagnosed, the condition might have progressed to severe sepsis or septic shock.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition whereby levels of symptoms can occur and progress rapidly. A mild form of sepsis can easily evolve into advanced forms of the condition within a short span of time. For this reason, medical professionals have created a sepsis protocol to treat the condition.

A sepsis protocol is also called a sepsis bundle treatment. Bundles are groups of strategic medical interventions. With sepsis, these bundles or protocols are primarily geared toward supporting failing organs and systems while simultaneously combating the infection. Sepsis protocols are not universally administered at every healthcare facility but are increasingly becoming a standard mode of operation. Sepsis protocol will vary from one organization to another but generally will include a checklist of indicators for condition levels with corresponding actions, treatments, time frames and rationales.


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