Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pyemia ("Pus in the Blood"); ("Blood infection")

by Janet King, RN, BSN, CCRN.

This disease affected some 2,818 men - killing all but 71 of them! Often the soldier would seem to be recovering well. Suddenly his fever would go up, he would exhibit symptoms of dehydration, his wound would draining a "watery, thin and foul smelling fluid," and the sutured area would separate. Death generally followed in a few days. Doctors were beginning to regard this "disease" as a "contagion arising spontaneously in any putrefaction of wound products." They were also beginning to believe that it could be spread by the surgeons hands and recommended greater cleanliness in surgery.

1860's Treatments:Tonics, stimulants, dilute sulfuric acid, quinine, iron, opium and liquor.

Modern Knowledge:Today doctors categorize pyemia more precisely based on where the infection is. If bacteria is found in the blood, the term septicemia is used. The first goal is to determine the causative organism i.e. streptococcus or staphylococcus and a host of other potential bacteria. The second goal is to find the best antibiotic for the job, both of which are done by culturing blood samples. Fluids and special drugs are given to combat the shock-like effects of this widespread bacterial infection. Comfort measures and cooling measures i.e. Tylenol for temperature would also be utilized. If caught quickly this infection can be eliminated, but in some cases the patient still succumbs.



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