The consequences of severe sepsis

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Greg Martin, MD, and Annette Esper, MD:
The consequences of severe sepsis
March 2, 2009

No effective treatment yet exists for one of the country's deadliest illnesses -- sepsis. Despite 750,000 cases reported each year, relatively few patients are familiar with the condition. And those who are acquainted with sepsis may not appreciate the lethality of its more severe forms, severe sepsis and septic shock.

Through a series of studies, Emory University pulmonologists Annette Esper, MD, and Greg Martin, MD, are learning more about these two forms of sepsis and their accompanying complications.

"Sepsis is the immune response to an infection. However, the immune response goes haywire and is exaggerated to the point that it causes more inflammation or more injury and damage to the body as opposed to just fighting infection," says Martin, assistant professor of medicine.

Despite a growing understanding of sepsis, effective treatment remains elusive. "We understand much more about the condition and what causes it, but we don't have a good sense about how to treat it," says Martin.

Martin, Esper, and a team of collaborators are now focusing on the co-morbid clinical conditions seen in ICU patients with sepsis. "We're looking at how those conditions may affect the development of organ dysfunction in sepsis. We found that in patients with severe sepsis, diabetics were less likely to develop acute respiratory failure compared to non-diabetics, which is quite an unexpected outcome," says Esper.

To hear Martin and Esper's own words about their research, use the player at the top of this page or subscribe to the podcast.