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What Is Neutropenia Sepsis?

By Jennifer Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Neutropenia sepsis is also known as neutropenic sepsis. It is a condition caused by a hematological disorder called neutropenia. The disorder progresses into life-threatening sepsis when an infection occurs and prompt treatment is not obtained.

This blood disorder affects a specific type of white blood cell known as a neutrophil. These white blood cells are important because they are the body’s main defense against bacteria that enter the bloodstream. This condition causes a deficiency in the amount of neutrophils, which increases bacteria and leaves the patient vulnerable to developing infections.

Although there are different forms of neutropenia and sepsis can occur in any one of them, it is more common to be a result of chemotherapy treatment. In many cases, chemotherapy suppresses cell production in bone marrow. Neutropenia sepsis can become worse if it is not treated immediately.

The symptoms of this type sepsis vary depending on the severity of the infection and the body’s response. General symptoms include fever and slightly elevated heart respiration rates. Patients with severe sepsis may also suffer from dysfunctional or failing organs. Septic shock leads to dangerously low blood pressure that does not respond to treatment.

Diagnosing sepsis is achieved several ways. Doctors must look for visible symptoms, including fever, inflammation, cough, and skin lesions. Visible signs of infection in the mouth or sinuses can also be used in diagnostics.

Further testing is necessary to confirm a visual diagnosis. A standard type of testing is a full blood count (FBC), which is used to measure the amount of neutrophils in the blood. Liver function tests and a series of blood cultures help ensure proper organ function. Coagulation tests are performed to monitor red blood cells and clotting times.

Imaging tests may help determine sites of infection that are not visible or found by blood tests. Chest radiography images can show neutropenia sepsis in the lungs. A stool microscopy or colonoscopy can determine if an infection has occurred in the colon.

Neutropenia sepsis treatment includes antibiotics, and the one prescribed will vary depending on the source of the infection. While most infections start from a bacterial invasion, some patients may also have viral infections as well. In addition to antibiotics, anti-virals may also be used. Complications resulting from the sepsis, such as slow respiration, also require treatment. It is important to first treat underlying conditions that are responsible for causing the sepsis before treatment of the sepsis symptoms can begin.

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Discussion Comments
By aaaCookie — On Dec 08, 2011

@DentalFloss- You know, some medical researchers believe that cancer might be all down to some sort of nutrient deficiency of some kind. While it sounds far-fetched, some studies were done several years ago in which people who ate a certain number of apricot seeds (the little seed inside the apricot pit) actually overcame their cancer without things like chemotherapy.

It sounds a little too good to be true, and I want to trust doctors and believe they know best. At the same time, though, if it were me at risk of constant fever, nausea, neutropenia, and all the other problems people can have as a result of chemotherapy and mainstream medical treatments for cancer, I might try it too.

By DentalFloss — On Dec 07, 2011

@turkay- I think what you said can apply to many illnesses. It is easy these days to assume a doctor can and will fix everything for us when we are sick, and the reality is that it just doesn't work that way.

In terms of cancer, I have a friend who has been dealing with her cancer using mostly alternative treatments. While it was found early and not a very deadly variety, I do worry about her; however, so far she's maintaining her health and has not had any issues with neutropenia and fever, so I think she might have the right idea after all.

By candyquilt — On Dec 07, 2011

@anamur, @simrin-- Treatng neutropenia sepsis requires teamwork. The patient needs to do everything possible to stay away from bacterial infections like maintaining hygiene, staying away from sick people or vaccinated people and so forth.

But the doctor's awareness and decision making is vital too. Doctors applying chemotherapy need to do regular blood counts on their patients to see if neutrophil levels are too low. Most doctors are very careful about this and will even give their patients breaks from chemotherapy so that neutrophil levels can go back to normal.

By SteamLouis — On Dec 06, 2011

@anamur-- I'm under chemotherapy right now and my doctor has told me a lot about neutropenia sepsis and the symptoms I need to look out for.

They say that one out of ten people who go to the hospital with neutropenia sepsis dies because of this complication. I see your point of view, but I don't think chemotherapy patients should all be given antibiotics because not everyone develops neutropenia sepsis.

What's more important is to create awareness about the condition. Because what kills people with neutropenia sepsis in my view is late diagnosis. If people go to the hospital as soon as they have symptoms, they can be treated in time.

By serenesurface — On Dec 05, 2011

This is one of the main reasons why I dislike the use of chemotherapy in cancer patients. While chemotherapy helps kill cancer cells, it also kills other cells that are vital for health, like neutrophils.

I know that as of right now, chemotherapy is the best treatment we've got against cancer. But if we already know that chemotherapy can lead to things like neutropenia sepsis, why can't we do something to prevent it while the chemotherapy is being used?

I'm not a doctor or anything, but can't we give patients under chemotherapy anti-bacterial or anti-viral drugs so that they don't get infections?

Why do we have to wait until we see signs of neutropenia sepsis to do something about it?

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