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Post-Sepsis Syndrome: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Post-sepsis syndrome refers to long-term physical and psychological problems that some people experience after surviving sepsis. Learn about the symptoms and treatment of post-sepsis syndrome in this lesson.

Post-Sepsis Syndrome

Sophie is an 87-year-old retired nurse. About 2 months ago, Sophie contracted pneumonia which developed into sepsis. She was hospitalized for several days as she recovered from both the pneumonia and sepsis.

Even though she was released from the hospital, Sophie continued to have health problems. She had extreme fatigue, an inability to think clearly, muscle weakness, decreased mobility, and difficulty sleeping. Due to these persistent problems, Sophie decided to visit her doctor to get checked out. After the doctor ran several tests, he told Sophie that she had post-sepsis syndrome.

Post-sepsis syndrome refers to the long-term physical and psychological problems that a person may experience after surviving sepsis. Sepsis is a very serious and life-threatening condition of widespread infection and inflammation throughout the body. Sepsis is frequently caused by bacteria, viral, and fungal infectious diseases such as pneumonia, kidney infections, and blood infections. About 50% of the people who survive sepsis will eventually suffer from post-sepsis syndrome.

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs which can lead to sepsis.
pneumonia

Symptoms

Symptoms of post-sepsis syndrome include both physical and psychological problems. These symptoms may begin shortly after sepsis and may last for several years.

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Decreased mobility
  • Joint pains
  • Swollen extremities
  • Hair loss
  • Decreased vision
  • Poor appetite and taste changes

Joint pain, such as in the knee, is a common symptom of post-sepsis syndrome.
knee pain

Psychological Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Memory loss
  • Nightmares
  • Disturbing flashbacks

Symptoms such as depression and anxiety are common in post-sepsis syndrome.
depression

Treatment

Treatment for post-sepsis syndrome is determined by the specific symptoms a person is suffering. For example, Sophie is suffering from muscle weakness, decreased mobility, and decreased range of motion. These are symptoms that could be alleviated by physical therapy. There are several exercises that a physical therapist could have Sophie perform which would focus on increasing strength and improving her reduced walking ability. This could include exercises such as squats to increase the strength in her legs or various stretches to improve her range of motion and mobility.

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