Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

By | June 10, 2022

Systemic inflammatory response syndrome is an excessive systemic response of the whole body to a local inflammatory response. Their causes are manifold. The disease is very serious and can often be fatal.

What is Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

The systemic inflammatory response syndrome ( SIRS ) represents a systemic and excessive reaction of the body to a local event. The entire body is affected by an inflammatory reaction that can lead to death. It can be triggered at the same time as local inflammation or as a consequence of the inflammatory process. The symptoms are due to the response of the immune system. For what is l5 syndrome, please visit

There is a non-infectious and an infectious form of SIRS. The infectious form of SIRS is triggered by sepsis. In the context of sepsis, the organism is inundated with bacteria, fungi and their toxins. However, SIRS can also be caused by a traumatic event involving severe injury, severe bleeding, or acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

The body reacts inadequately violently to an external influence, so that this reaction becomes the real problem. In the worst case, general organ failure occurs. In this sense, SIRS is not a disease in its own right, but a reaction to an influence that can also be triggered by an underlying disease.


The causes of a systemic inflammatory response syndrome can be manifold. SIRS is often equated with sepsis. However, that is not entirely correct. It can be triggered by infectious and non-infectious processes. Sepsis is the underlying cause only if the cause is infectious. There is a focus of infection in the body, which is caused by an open wound, a serious injury or another local infection. Likewise, abscesses can also lead to sepsis.

During sepsis, the source of the infection floods the body with infectious germs and their toxins via the blood. This is called blood poisoning. The germs distributed throughout the body now cause a violent defense reaction that takes place everywhere. The reaction is too unspecific and too undifferentiated to be able to fight the germs.

As the number of germs continues to grow, the body’s defense reaction also increases. The internal organs are attacked, which ultimately leads to the severe course of the disease. However, there is another form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome. There are no infectious germs. But a sudden local event, such as trauma, shock, or an extremely acute development of pancreatitis, can lead to a systemic inflammatory response with the symptoms of SIRS.

A severe allergic reaction can also be a cause. Not only the violent reaction of the immune system, but also an immune deficiency can trigger SIRS. In this case, the rapid spread of germs leads to severe symptoms, with body temperature and the number of white blood cells ( leukocytes ) being too low.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

In the course of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome, there is either a sudden high fever (above 38 degrees) or a body temperature that is too low (below 36 degrees). Tachycardia occurs with a heart rate of over 90 beats per minute. The respiratory rate increases above 20 breaths per minute. Hyperventilation can develop, which drastically lowers the partial pressure of carbon dioxide.

This blocks the uptake of oxygen in the blood. In the blood, either a sharp increase in the number of leukocytes (leukocytosis) takes place, or, on the contrary, the number of leukocytes decreases drastically (leukopenia). The combination of fever and leukocytosis is most common . It can be concluded that the immune system is overreacting. The rare combination of leukopenia and low body temperature is known as cold SIRS and usually occurs when the immune system is weak.

Diagnosis & course of disease

A systemic inflammatory response syndrome can be diagnosed based on its symptoms. SIRS is present when at least two of the main symptoms such as high or low temperature, high or low WBC count, heart rate above 90 per minute, or respiratory rate above 20 breaths per minute are present. Blood tests for typical clinical parameters such as phosphate concentration, platelet count or interleukins complete the result.


The systemic inflammatory response syndrome can cause various complications in its course. First of all, the whole body inflammation leads to flare-ups of fever. If the body temperature rises above 41 degrees Celsius, there is a risk of serious cardiovascular problems. A further increase can be life-threatening.

The accompanying weakness of the immune system favors infections and can lead to further complaints. In the worst case, it can lead to blood poisoning, which can be fatal if left untreated. In less severe cases, the inflammation spreads to other regions of the body, such as the internal organs or the skin. If other pathogens penetrate the weakened body, a superinfection occurs, which always has serious consequences.

Antibiotic therapy is always risky. In some patients, the drug causes serious side effects or triggers an existing allergy. Children, the elderly and the sick, who often suffer from circulatory problems after ingestion, are particularly at risk. Surgery is also associated with certain risks and side effects. Infections, bleeding and wound healing disorders cannot be ruled out. Sometimes nerves or muscles are injured.

When should you go to the doctor?

Sudden strong changes in body temperature are considered a warning signal from the organism. In these cases, immediate action should be taken to avoid further complications. In severe cases, the systemic inflammatory response syndrome threatens the premature death of the person affected. Therefore, one should pay attention to the alarm signals of the body and act immediately. A fever, as well as an enormous drop in body temperature, is an acute cause for concern.

If the respiratory rate increases, heart palpitations or a strong feeling of illness occur, a doctor should be consulted. In the case of breathing disorders, hyperventilation and shortness of breath, the person concerned needs immediate help. If you lose consciousness, you must call an ambulance. Immediately after an emergency call is made, those present are asked to take first aid measures until the rescue team arrives.

A feeling of pressure in the upper body, sudden changes in behavior and inner irritability indicate a health problem. A sudden decrease in physical capacity, limitations in mobility, headaches or general dysfunction must be evaluated and treated. If you break out in a sweat, chills or lose your inner strength, this is considered worrying. Dizziness, unsteady gait or problems with the circulatory system are further signs of an existing disease. They must be examined and clarified by a specialist as soon as possible.

Treatment & Therapy

Systemic inflammatory response syndrome is a medical emergency and must be treated promptly. Therapy must begin before the pathogen is detected in order to stabilize the extremely life-threatening situation. If a focus of infection is discovered (such as an abscess), it must be surgically removed immediately to stop the spread of the pathogen in the body. First, a broad antibiotic treatment follows, which can be specified after pathogen detection.

Furthermore, a 70 percent central venous oxygen saturation is necessary. In the event of a shock with a severe drop in blood pressure, volume replacement is carried out by administration of electrolytes. Treatment with vasopressors such as vasopressin, norepinephrine or dobutamine may also be necessary. In certain cases, a blood transfusion is also performed.

Ventilation must also take place. Despite these measures, up to 50 percent of the affected patients die. After the acute symptoms have been treated, it may still be necessary to treat any organ damage that has occurred.


A general recommendation for the prevention of a systemic inflammatory response syndrome cannot be given. There is no single cause. However, pre-existing conditions such as diabetes mellitus, which make wound healing more difficult, can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. That’s why a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can help reduce the risk of SIRS.


In the case of the systemic inflammatory response syndrome, the follow-up care is very diverse and depends on the triggering factor. However, a cure is possible. Follow-up care is initially with antibiotics. Depending on the trigger and the extent of the disease, treatment with infusions or vasopressors, vasoconstricting agents, is recommended.

In addition, both thrombosis prophylaxis and pain therapy are important. In some cases, a blood transfusion or surgery may be necessary to treat the disease that caused it. In the follow-up treatment, regular medical checks are important in order to identify and treat consequential damage. If organ damage has occurred as a result of the disease, this sometimes has to be treated in the long term.

The disease weakens the body’s own defences, so it is important to take care of the body and refrain from particular sporting activities. Furthermore, a healthy stomach-friendly diet, sufficient fluid intake and the avoidance of alcohol and nicotine are recommended. Relaxation methods such as yoga or meditation also help to improve general well-being despite the illness.

The prognosis in systemic inflammatory response syndrome depends on prompt treatment of the disease. The general state of health also influences healing. The disease can be fatal in some cases.

You can do that yourself

The systemic inflammatory response syndrome must first be treated by a doctor. If signs of the syndrome appear, the emergency doctor must be called. Until he arrives, the person concerned must be laid down and, if necessary, further first-aid measures must be initiated. Cool pads and rest are important initial measures that can relieve a fever or a burn, for example. Medical treatment includes infusions or surgery if there is organ damage or burns.

Sustainable treatment is only successful if the trigger is identified and eliminated. Therefore, the patient must actively cooperate with the doctors and inform them about the possible causes of the symptoms. If organ failure has already occurred, the prospect of recovery is rather poor. The most important self-help measure is to regulate personal matters and to discuss further steps with the doctor.

If the course is more positive, the patient mainly has to take it easy. SIRS can damage the entire body, which is why getting enough rest is all the more important. Patients must stay at home for at least two to four weeks after SIRS. The doctor can name other self-help measures that can improve well-being.

Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome