Pyaemia

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Pyaemia
Classification and external resources
ICD-9 038.42

Pyaemia (or pyemia) is a type of septicaemia that leads to widespread abscesses of a metastatic nature. It is usually caused by the staphylococcus bacteria by pus-forming organisms in the blood. Apart from the distinctive abscesses, pyaemia exhibits the same symptoms as other forms of septicaemia. It was almost universally fatal before the introduction of antibiotics.

Sir William Osler included a three-page discussion of pyaemia in his textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine, published in 1892. He defined pyaemia as follows:

A general disease, characterized by recurring chills and intermittent fever and the formation of abscesses in various parts, all of which result from the contamination of the blood by products arising from a focus contaminated by the bacteria of suppuration.

Earlier still, Ignaz Semmelweis - who would later die of the disease - included a section entitled "Childbed fever is a variety of pyaemia" in his treatise, The Etiology of Childbed Fever (1861). Jane Grey Swisshelm, in her autobiography entitled Half a Century, describes the treatment of pyaemia in 1862 during the American Civil War.

Symptoms[edit]

The disease is characterized by intermittent high temperature with recurrent chills; metastatic processes in various parts of the body, especially in the lungs; septic pneumonia; empyema. It may be fatal.

Treatment[edit]

Antibiotics are effective. Prophylactic treatment consists in prevention of suppuration.

Cultural References[edit]

Bazarov in Ivan Turgenev's "Fathers and Children" dies of Pyaemia. Miller Huggins, manager of the New York Yankees, died of Pyaemia while managing the team during the 1929 season

Different types of pyaemia[edit]

  • arterial p. Pyaemia resulting from dissemination of emboli from a thrombus in cardiac vessels.
  • cryptogenic p. Pyaemia of an origin that is hidden in the deeper tissues.
  • metastatic p. Multiple abscesses resulting from infected pyaemic thrombi.
  • portal p. Suppurative inflammation of the portal vein.