Treating septic shock 

Sepsis and septic shock are medical emergencies and must be treated immediately.

It's likely you'll be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) for urgent treatment and to carefully monitor your progress. In some cases treatment may begin in the emergency department.

Oxygen therapy

To help you breathe more easily, you'll be given oxygen through a face mask, a tube inserted into your nose, or an endotracheal tube inserted into your mouth. If you have severe shortness of breath, a mechanical ventilator may be used.

Increasing blood flow

You'll probably be given fluids directly into a vein. This will help raise your blood pressure by increasing the amount of fluid in your blood.

To increase the blood flow to your vital organs, such as your brain, liver, kidneys and heart, you may be prescribed inotropic medicines or vasopressors.

Inotropic medicines 

Inotropic medicines (inotropes), such as dobutamine, stimulate your heart. They increase the strength of your heartbeat, which helps get oxygen-rich blood to your tissues and organs, where it's needed.


Vasopressors include:

  • dopamine
  • adrenaline
  • noradrenaline

These medicines will cause your blood vessels to narrow, increasing your blood pressure and the flow of blood around your body. This will allow your vital organs to start functioning properly.


Antibiotics are often used to treat the associated bacterial infection. The type of antibiotic used depends on the type of bacterial infection and where in the body the infection started.

You may be started on antibiotics immediately to increase your chances of survival. Initially, two or three types of antibiotics may be used. The most effective type of antibiotic can be used once the bacterium responsible for the infection is identified.


In severe cases of sepsis or septic shock, the large decrease in blood pressure and blood flow can kill organ tissue. If this happens, surgery may be required to remove the dead tissue.

Page last reviewed: 18/02/2015

Next review due: 18/02/2017