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Advances in Medicine
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 762320, 16 pages
Review Article

Sepsis Associated Encephalopathy

Department of Neurology, Academic Block, G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi 110002, India

Received 31 May 2014; Revised 18 August 2014; Accepted 19 August 2014; Published 30 September 2014

Academic Editor: João Quevedo

Copyright © 2014 Neera Chaudhry and Ashish Kumar Duggal. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Sepsis associated encephalopathy (SAE) is a common but poorly understood neurological complication of sepsis. It is characterized by diffuse brain dysfunction secondary to infection elsewhere in the body without overt CNS infection. The pathophysiology of SAE is complex and multifactorial including a number of intertwined mechanisms such as vascular damage, endothelial activation, breakdown of the blood brain barrier, altered brain signaling, brain inflammation, and apoptosis. Clinical presentation of SAE may range from mild symptoms such as malaise and concentration deficits to deep coma. The evaluation of cognitive dysfunction is made difficult by the absence of any specific investigations or biomarkers and the common use of sedation in critically ill patients. SAE thus remains diagnosis of exclusion which can only be made after ruling out other causes of altered mentation in a febrile, critically ill patient by appropriate investigations. In spite of high mortality rate, management of SAE is limited to treatment of the underlying infection and symptomatic treatment for delirium and seizures. It is important to be aware of this condition because SAE may present in early stages of sepsis, even before the diagnostic criteria for sepsis can be met. This review discusses the diagnostic approach to patients with SAE along with its epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical presentation, and differential diagnosis.