Neonatal Infant Sepsis

NICU Neonatal Sepsis

Sepsis in general terms means that there is a critical bacterial infection in the neonate’s system that can cause serious issues, potentially even leading to death.  It can affect many parts of the pretmature infant’s body, including the intestines, lungs, and brain.

The bacterial infection that causes sepsis can originate in a number of places, including the intestines, lungs, or skin.  Because premature infants have extremely weak immune systems, they are particularly vulnerable to bacterial infections.

Life support and life saving procedures commonly associated with premature infants, such as intubations, central line placements, umbilical line placements, and IV lines create pathways for bacteria to enter into the neonate’s body.  Some of this bacteria is common, passed from mother to baby during birth, and even common skin bacteria that lives on the preemie’s skin itself.

Neonatal Sepsis in the NICU

Sepsis is a particularly strong threat to babies in the NICU.  Sick and premature babies tend to be more likely to be intubated, have line placements, and possess other significant pathways for infections.

If an infection is suspected, the neonatologist, pediatrician, or neonatal nurse practitioner may order blood culture tests, cultures from other parts of the body, or cultures from other body fluids.  These cultures can identify any bacterial infections that could lead to sepsis.

Based on the results of the cultures, medications will be given to help fight the bacterial infections.

Sepsis is a very serious illness, and covers a much larger spectrum than we are addressing here.  Since is a general information site for parents and professionals, we encourage further reading on sepsis other than what we currently have listed here in this article.

Please see the following resources for further information on NICU sepsis: