Septicemia

septicemia. An infection characterized by the presence of bacteria and their toxins in the blood.

Septicemia  may be defined as an acute febrile affection, characterized by marked nervous, cutaneous and visceral manifestations, and due to the introduction into the system of bacteria and their toxins from an infected wound. It applies to diseases which present poisons in the blood that are of parasitic origin, the parasite itself being either present or absent in the blood. Septicemia, in strong contrast to the definition of toxemia, would include diseases arising from the invasion of the tissues and fluids of the body by animal or vegetable parasites or their poisonous products.

Symptoms. The onset, as a rule, is slow, beginning from 4 to 7 days after an injury, with a chill, which is followed by fever, at first moderate, but soon becoming high. The fever presents morning remissions and evening exacerbations and may occasionally show an intermission. When the remission begins, there is a copious sweat. The pulse is small, weak, very frequent, and compressible; the tongue is dry and brown with a red tip; the vomiting is frequent, and diarrhea is the rule; delirium alternates with stupor, and coma is usual before death; prostration is very great, and visceral congestion occurs; the spleen is enlarged, ecchymoses and petechiae are noted, secretions dry up, urinary secretion is scanty or is suppressed, and the wound becomes dry and brown.

Blood examination detects disintegration of red globules and marked leukocytosis. When a wound becomes septic, red lines of lymphangitis are seen about it and there is enlargement of the related lymphatic glands. No thrombi or emboli exist in septicemia. The prognosis is bad, and in some malignant cases death occurs within 24 hours.

Treatment  is the same as for septic intoxication (see “sapremia ”). Antistreptococci serum can be used, but the value of this method is doubtful.