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SIRS: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Leasha Roy

Leasha is licensed as a registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist. She has over 17 years of nursing experience in a variety of settings and roles including long-term care, acute care, critical care, education, and leadership.

SIRS is a serious condition caused by an assault to the body, such as infection, trauma, or inflammation. This lesson explores the symptoms and treatment of this disease.

Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

Larry is a carpenter who cuts his hand at work one day. The cut looks a little deep, so he heads to his doctor to get it checked out. His doctor tells him he'll need surgery to repair a tendon in his hand. Larry successfully has surgery and is admitted to the surgical floor to recuperate.

The morning after his surgery, Larry develops a fever, chills, and just feels bad in general. His nurse suspects he is developing systemic inflammatory response syndrome. Larry asks for more information about the condition.

What Is SIRS?

SIRS, or systemic inflammatory response syndrome, is the presence of two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Temperature above 100.4 or below 96.8
  • Heart rate above 90 beats per minute
  • Breathing rate more than 20 breaths per minute or arterial carbon dioxide less than 32 mmHg
  • White blood cell count above 12,000 or below 4,000

SIRS is sometimes confused with sepsis, but there is one key difference between the two: the presence of infection. That is, SIRS can occur following trauma, inflammation, ischemia, or infection, whereas sepsis only occurs in the presence of an infection. SIRS does not always occur following these insults to the body, but is rather a potential complication of them. In the presence of infection, SIRS can evolve into sepsis if not treated quickly and appropriately.

Common causes of SIRS
SIRS

Diagnosing and Treating SIRS

Diagnosis of SIRS is based on presence of the above symptoms along with some type of insult to the body. When SIRS is suspected, various labs, such as blood cultures, lactic acid, and complete blood counts, may be drawn. Upon confirmation of this condition, treatment is aimed at alleviating the cause.

For instance, if SIRS occurs due to ischemia, or obstruction of blood flow to an area of the body, treatment is aimed at restoring blood flow to the affected area along with supportive therapy to treat symptoms. If SIRS occurs following a heart attack, treatment is aimed at preserving heart functioning and managing whatever symptoms are caused by SIRS. SIRS is sometimes even thought of as a defense mechanism for the body because it is basically a complex process in which the body attempts to 'fight' the effects of the insult or injury.

Diagnostics labs for SIRS
sirs labs

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