Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) and Sepsis

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Laboratory Methods to Aid in the Detection of Sepsis. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) and Sepsis

SIRS is an inflammatory clinical response syndrome that may occur in the presence or absence of infection. When the cause of the systemic (affecting the whole body) inflammatory response is infection, the condition is considered sepsis.
Sepsis is a complication caused by the body's overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. The most common cause of sepsis is from bacterial infection occurring somewhere in the body, and moving into the bloodstream. The risk of sepsis is increased in those having:
  • A weakened immune system
  • Certain chronic disorders
  • Artificial joint or heart valve
  • Certain heart valve abnormalities
Sepsis has been reported to be the most common cause of death in the noncoronary intensive care unit. Note that it is sepsis (the immune system's response) that is usually the cause of death and not the infection. Therefore, it is crucial that the recognition of sepsis be made as quickly as possible. Delay in identifying sepsis limits the effectiveness of treatment.