Sepsis is a potentially fatal whole-body inflammatory state caused by severe infection, in which a maladaptive, system-wide inflammatory response follows initial attempts to eliminate pathogens, leading to a dangerous and often fatal increase in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. These changes in the blood-brain barrier might lead to a major symptom of sepsis, sepsis-associated encephalopathy, which manifests as confusion with a rapid decline in cognitive functions, especially memory, or coma. Once presumed to be entirely reversible, research suggests that sepsis-associated encephalopathy could lead to permanent neurocognitive dysfunction and functional impairments, even after the patient has recovered. Sepsis might act as a major inflammatory hit and potentially increase the brain's susceptibility to neurodegenerative disease, further deterioration of cognitive ability, and risk of developing dementia in later life. Key opportunities for neuroprotective interventions and after-care for people who have survived sepsis might be lost because the long-term neurocognitive and functional consequences of sepsis are not fully characterised.
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