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Neutropenic sepsis

Sepsis in patients who have a low neutrophil count

  • By: Zac C Etheridge, Helen Eagleton
  • Published: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.d785
  • Cite this as: Student BMJ 2011;19:d785

Neutropenic sepsis is a medical emergency where time is of the essence. It might not be appreciated as such, and delays often occur in starting treatment. Neutropenic sepsis is initially treated in an identical manner to non-neutropenic severe sepsis and septic shock.

Sepsis is the invasion of normally sterile parts of the body by microbes—that is, infection—and the resulting inflammatory response to this, causing an alteration in the body’s normal physiology. Neutropenic sepsis is the occurrence of sepsis in patients who have a neutrophil count of <1.0×109/L. Neutrophils are essential for a full immune response to infection, and neutropenic patients are unable to fight off infections untreated. They might rapidly become unwell, even when infected with organisms that would not normally cause illness in a person with a healthy immune system.

Sepsis, neutropenic or otherwise, is a leading cause of death in the United Kingdom, with a mortality of

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