Because symptoms of sepsis can be vague in infants, laboratory tests play a crucial role in confirming or ruling out sepsis.

  1. Blood tests (including red and white blood cell counts) and blood cultures may be taken to determine whether bacteria are present in the blood.
  2. Urine is usually collected by inserting a sterile catheter into the baby's bladder through the urethra for a few seconds to remove urine; this will be examined under a microscope and cultured to check for the presence of bacteria.
  3. A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) may be performed, depending on the baby's age and overall appearance. A sample of cerebrospinal fluid will be tested and cultured to determine if the baby has possible meningitis.
  4. X-rays, especially of the chest (to make sure there isn't pneumonia), are sometimes taken.
  5. If the baby has any kind of medical tubes running into his or her body (such as IV tubes, catheters, or shunts), the fluids inside those tubes may be tested for signs of infection as well.
  6. Typically, doctors start infants with sepsis on antibiotics right away - even before the diagnosis is confirmed. If more symptoms of sepsis begin to appear, they usually start them on IV fluids to keep them hydrated, blood pressure medication to keep their hearts working properly, and respirators to help them breathe.
  7. Supportive therapy with oxygen, intravenous fluids, and medications that increase blood pressure may be required for a good outcome. Dialysis may be necessary in the event of kidney failure, and mechanical ventilation is often required if respiratory failure occurs.