Pathophysiology of sepsis

Am J Pathol. 2007 May;170(5):1435-44. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2007.060872.


Sepsis remains a critical problem with significant morbidity and mortality even in the modern era of critical care management. Multiple derangements exist in sepsis involving several different organs and systems, although controversies exist over their individual contribution to the disease process. Septic patients have substantial, life-threatening alterations in their coagulation system, and currently, there is an approved therapy with a component of the coagulation system (activated protein C) to treat patients with severe sepsis. Previously, it was believed that sepsis merely represented an exaggerated, hyperinflammatory response with patients dying from inflammation-induced organ injury. More recent data indicate that substantial heterogeneity exists in septic patients' inflammatory response, with some appearing immuno-stimulated, whereas others appear suppressed. Cellular changes continue the theme of heterogeneity. Some cells work too well such as neutrophils that remain activated for an extended time. Other cellular changes become accelerated in a detrimental fashion including lymphocyte apoptosis. Metabolic changes are clearly present, requiring close and individualized monitoring. At this point in time, the literature richly illustrates that no single mediator/system/pathway/pathogen drives the pathophysiology of sepsis. This review will briefly discuss many of the important alterations that account for the pathophysiology of sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Sepsis / drug therapy
  • Sepsis / physiopathology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents