Urosepsis: Definition, Symptoms, Complications & Treatment

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Urosepsis is a serious an life-threatening condition that initially starts as a urinary tract infection. Read this lesson to learn more about the hallmark symptoms that define urosepsis, potential complications of this condition, and how to individualize treatments to overcome this illness.

What Is Urosepsis?

The word sepsis, derived from the Greek word 'sepein' meaning 'rotten,' refers to a dangerous and serious infection being spread in the blood. The word urosepsis also refers to another serious and potentially life-threatening condition, but specifically occurring within the urinary tract.

Jackie, the nurse caring for Joe, a patient diagnosed with urosepsis, knows that this serious condition began with a urinary tract infection (UTI). Because her patient is so acutely (intensely sick over a short period of time) ill, she explains to his family that the infection has become systemic, meaning that the infection has spread throughout his body by his bloodstream. She tells them that some people refer to sepsis as 'blood poisoning' because the infection has left the urinary tract (urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys) and has affected other parts of his body.

Symptoms of Urosepsis

Jackie first asks the family if Joe had complained of any signs or symptoms of a UTI. Joe's wife states that he had been complaining of burning when trying to urinate and difficulty trying to empty his bladder. She also noted a strong odor when using the bathroom after Joe. The couple attributed these concerns to increasing age. They decided to seek help when Joe complained that he hadn't been able to urinate for over a day, had a high fever, and started to feel confused.

Jackie learned that when Joe's wife brought him to their family doctor, he was admitted to the hospital right away due to possible urosepsis. She read the admitting physician's note and saw many other signs and symptoms that are hallmark characteristics of urosepsis:

  • Febrile, or a high fever, typically greater than 101F
  • Tachycardia, or elevated heart rate
  • Diaphoresis, uncontrollable sweating
  • Pain in the lower back and sides
  • Change in mental status and onset of confusion

While it is less likely for males to develop urosepsis, other telltale signs that pointed to urosepsis included Joe's past medical history of an enlarged prostate, diabetes, and reoccurring UTI's.


Because urosepsis is a serious and advanced infection, Jackie is aware of complications that may arise during Joe's care.

Although Joe is in critical condition, and the infection is even affecting his cognition (mental state) causing confusion and disorientation, he is still breathing normally and has a strong pulse. If the team acts fast and develops a treatment plan specifically based on Joe's needs, he might have a chance of a full recovery without common complications like shock and abscess development. Kidney damage, organ failure, and scarring of the urinary tract are other potential complications of urosepsis that Joe may be at risk of developing. Paying close attention to Joe's renal function, or his kidney's ability to process medications, will also help his doctors prescribe medications to beat the infection but not cause too much damage to his kidneys.

Treating Urosepsis

Because Joe's condition is life-threatening, his medical team acts fast to promote recovery. First, Joe's blood is drawn to find out what antibiotic might be most effective. The team identifies an antibiotic that is strong enough to fight the infection but safe enough for Joe's body to process. They administer this antibiotic medication intravenously through the bloodstream for direct treatment.

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