CDC Puts Spotlight on Sepsis as 'Medical Emergency'
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, September 07, 2016 06:51 AM

Federal health officials are calling on healthcare providers to do more to prevent, recognize, and treat sepsis before it can cause life-threatening illness or death.

An infection that is getting worse and is not treated can lead to sepsis. We call on healthcare providers to take opportunities to prevent, identify, and rapidly treat patients with sepsis and to educate patients and family members about sepsis.

Each year, from 1 to 3 million people in the United States are diagnosed with sepsis. The mortality rate from sepsis is between 15% and 30%. Many who survive sepsis have a prolonged stay in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, Dr Frieden noted.

To describe characteristics of patients with sepsis and to inform sepsis initiatives, the CDC partnered with the New York State Department of Health and Emerging Infections Program on a retrospective chart review of 246 adult and 79 pediatric patients from four New York hospitals with administrative codes for severe sepsis or septic shock. The median age of adult patients was 69 years, and 52% were male. The pediatric group included 31 infants younger than 1 year and 48 children between 1 and 17 years of age.

Mirroring other studies, sepsis most commonly occurred among patients with one or more comorbid conditions. But about 80% of patients develop infections leading to sepsis outside a hospital.  The study also found that nearly a quarter of sepsis patients (72%) had seen a healthcare provider in the month preceding sepsis admission or had chronic diseases requiring frequent medical care.

They say sepsis is most often associated with infections of the lung, urinary tract, skin, and intestines, the data show. Pneumonia is the most common infection leading to sepsis.  Overall, one quarter of patients with sepsis died, including 65 (26%) adults and 17 (22%) infants and children.

Individuals with an infection who are at high risk for sepsis include people aged 65 years or older, infants younger than 1 year, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes.

Six of the key signs and symptoms of sepsis are "not widely known." They are shivering, fever, or feeling very cold; extreme pain or discomfort; clammy or sweaty skin; confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath; and a high heart rate.

The CDC encourages healthcare providers to do the following:

  • Educate patients and their families. Stress the need to prevent infections, manage chronic conditions, and if an infection is not improving, promptly seek care. Don't delay.

  • Think sepsis. Know the signs and symptoms to identify and treat patients earlier.

  • Act fast. If sepsis is suspected, order tests to help determine whether an infection is present, where it is, and what caused it. Start antibiotics and other recommended medical care immediately.

  • Reassess patient management. Check patient progress frequently. Reassess antibiotic therapy 24 to 48 hours or sooner to change therapy as needed. Determine whether the type of antibiotics, dose, and duration are correct.