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Blood poisoning - Diagnosing sepsis

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Sepsis is most often diagnosed by a blood test. Other tests may help determine the type of infection, where it is located and which body functions have been affected.

To diagnose sepsis, several tests may be carried out, including:

  • blood tests 
  • urine tests
  • stool sample tests
  • blood pressure tests
  • a wound culture test (where a small sample of tissue, skin or fluid is taken from the affected area for testing)
  • respiratory secretion testing (which involves testing a sample of your saliva, phlegm or mucus)
  • imaging studies such as an X-ray or computerised tomography (CT) scan
  • kidney, liver and heart function tests
  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap) where a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is extracted from your back for testing

In the case of suspected sepsis, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible so that appropriate treatment can be given. This can help stop the progress of sepsis and any long-term damage to the body.

Medical Review: April 30, 2012
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