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Sepsis

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Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of having an infection. It occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and causes swelling throughout the body. Sepsis can lead to organ failure and problems throughout the body, so it requires an experienced critical care team.

Any infection can lead to sepsis, but the most frequent causes are:

  • Abdominal infection
  • Bloodstream infection (bacteremia)
  • Kidney infection
  • Pneumonia 

To be diagnosed with sepsis, your child must have at least two of these symptoms, in addition to an infection:

  • Body temperature above 101 degrees F or below 96.8 degrees F
  • Heart rate faster than 90 beats a minute
  • Respiratory rate more than 20 breaths a minute

Sepsis is considered severe when it affects your child’s organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. Symptoms of organ failure could include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal heart function
  • Decrease in platelet count, a component that’s responsible for blood clotting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Significantly decreased urine output
  • Sudden change in mental status

The most severe stage of sepsis, called septic shock, causes a dangerous drop in blood pressure that can lead to organ failure, stroke, and death.

University of Miami Health System pediatric critical care specialists have the expertise to identify and treat sepsis using the latest approaches. Our experienced team is well-equipped to provide your child with lifesaving treatment.

Why Choose UHealth?

Comprehensive, family-centered care. We offer comprehensive, interdisciplinary care and management of complex medical conditions, as well as the continual involvement of parents and families. Our team spearheaded family-centered care as a standard for pediatric critical care, involving parents and families in our doctors' daily rounds to provide updates on status and progress.

Treating young patients from all over the world. Our critical care specialists have significant experience taking care of a culturally diverse patient population. Children and their families come from all over the world to receive quality care, compassionately delivered by outstanding pediatric specialists and other skilled medical professionals within our facilities. 

Top-notch care in an academic health system. Backed by one of the nation’s top universities, our team uses the latest technologies and research-driven expertise to provide your child with superior, personalized care and the best outcomes possible. We’re the only academic health center in South Florida with developmental and behavioral pediatric specialists on staff.

Commitment to research and education. As part of a university-based health system, our critical care team is involved in several clinical trials at any given time. Our department houses a three-year fellowship program in pediatric critical care. Our ongoing involvement in research and training the next generation of pediatric critical care providers allows us to offer the latest innovative, emerging treatments more quickly and safely than other facilities.

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Treatments

  • Antibiotic Medicine

    Antibiotics treat the underlying infection. Ideally, this treatment is provided within the first six hours. Typically, antibiotics are delivered directly into your child’s vein through an IV (intravenously).

  • Intravenous Fluids

    Intravenous fluids can help raise blood pressure that’s lowered from sepsis.

  • Vasopressor Medicine

    If your child’s blood pressure remains too low after receiving IV fluids, they may need vasopressor medicine. This type of medicine constricts (narrows) blood vessels to boost blood pressure.


Tests

  • Physical Exam

    If your child has an infection, the doctor performs a thorough physical exam to look for signs of sepsis. The doctor checks your child’s temperature, pulse, and respiratory (breathing) rate.

  • Blood Tests

    Blood tests look for signs of infection, clotting problems, abnormal liver or kidney function, impaired oxygen availability, and electrolyte imbalances.

  • Imaging Tests

    Your child’s doctor may order an imaging test — such as an X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — to evaluate the infection and plan treatment.