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What is the Difference Between Bacteremia and Sepsis?

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  • 0:02 Bacteremia & Sepsis
  • 0:20 Definitions
  • 0:52 Sepsis: Symptoms
  • 1:52 Bacterial Sepsis
  • 2:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Bacteremia and sepsis are sometimes confused. In this video, we'll define these terms, differentiate between them and discuss how they might be (but don't have to be) connected.

Bacteremia & Sepsis

Have you ever heard of bacteremia and sepsis? Some people erroneously use them synonymously. While the two terms are not synonyms, they can be related to one another. Let's begin by taking a look at how bacteremia and sepsis differ from each other.

Definitions

Bacteremia refers to the presence of bacteria in the blood. 'Bacter-' refers to bacteria and '-emia' refers to a condition or state of the blood. So bacteremia is bacteria in the bloodstream. That's it. Many times, bacteremia doesn't cause any signs or symptoms.

Sepsis is a term that is slightly more complex. The word sepsis comes to us from the Greek word 'sepein' or 'sepsis,' which means putrefaction, or the breakdown, decomposition, or rotting of an organic substance due to bacterial action.

Sepsis: Symptoms

Sepsis is a clinical syndrome, a collection of signs and symptoms. Signs are objective pieces of evidence that point to a problem. For example, temperature can be measured objectively with a thermometer. Thus, fever is a sign of a disease. Symptoms are subjective pieces of evidence with respect to a condition. Pain is a symptom because we can't measure it objectively, but instead rely on patients' interpretations of their pain to quantify it for us.

The signs and symptoms associated with sepsis result from an overwhelming or exaggerated immune system response to a systemic, or body-wide, infection. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • A rapid heart rate
  • A rapid and shallow breathing rate
  • Confusion
  • Hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure), known in severe cases of sepsis as septic shock.

Think of sepsis as the immune system's overwhelming reaction to an infectious agent or toxic product. The infectious agent is commonly bacterial in origin.

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