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The Rollin' RN's

Making Sense of Sepsis with a Spinal Cord Injury

Recently we have witnessed a good deal of discussion related to sepsis and spinal cord injury (SCI). But are we really aware of the implications of sepsis to us with SCIs? Sepsis can evolve rapidly and can quickly lead to death. Some of us have lost friends due to this dreadful scenario. The Rollin’ RNs wish to share essential information explaining the unfolding of sepsis in persons with SCIs.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body's response to an infection. The body normally releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection. Sepsis occurs when the body's response to these chemicals is out of balance, triggering changes that can damage multiple organ systems. With early diagnosis and treatment, antibiotics and IV fluids, survival chances improve dramatically. The keyword here is EARLY diagnosis and yet many of us delay going to a doctor. Delay can not be a term used when dealing with sepsis. You do not want to find yourself behind the eight ball when dealing with sepsis as it is a fast-moving scoundrel.

Why is sepsis dangerous for us with SCIs:

In individuals with paralysis, this might begin as a urinary tract (bladder) infection, pneumonia, a wound, pressure ulcer, or other infection. The infection can spread rapidly throughout the body, hence the danger.

Symptoms of impending sepsis:

  • Infection

  • Elevated temperature, greater than 38.3C or 101.3F

  • Fast heart rate, greater than 90 beats per minute

  • Fast respiratory rate, greater than 20 breaths per minute

  • Confusion or coma

  • Lower temperature below 36C or 97F


IV fluids and antibiotics.


Sepsis ranges from less to more severe. As sepsis worsens, blood flow to vital organs such as your brain, heart, and kidneys becomes impaired.

Sepsis is a topic for discussion with family members and caregivers. You may not be in a position to fully explain sepsis if you are found in the middle of symptoms. Family members/caregivers must understand the implications and need to obtain medical diagnosis and care IMMEDIATELY.

Download the Reeve Foundation wallet card for information on sepsis. The Reeve Foundation has wallet cards on several other SCI related topics available here:

Let’s keep it all good and keep on rollin’.

Patty, BSN, RNC and Roberta, RN

The ROLLIN’s RNs ™



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