Pediatric Sepsis Treatment Study Reveals Gaps In Medical Care

New research highlights major gaps in the quality of medical care provided in treatment of sepsis among children, indicating that many hospitals do not have protocols in place to ensure prompt and early treatment, which is critical for improving survival rates. 

In a study published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Michigan found that nearly 60 percent of hospitals reviewed had no protocol in place for identifying pediatric sepsis or treating sepsis syndrome, which often results in a child becoming severely sick and facing an increased risk of death.

Sepsis occurs when the body responds to some type of infection; bacterial, viral or fungal, causing severe wide spread symptoms that often result in organ failure. The body’s organs simply stop functioning properly.

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Sepsis syndrome includes sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock, and is a leading cause of child death. However, timely pediatric sepsis treatment greatly improves survival rates.

Recently the World Health Organization indicated that sepsis is a global health priority, highlighting resolutions to raise awareness about the condition and focus on prevention. However, the findings of this new study indicate that many U.S. hospitals simply do not have a process in place to quickly identify sepsis early and treat it, threatening the survival of affected children.

Researchers focused on seven measures of quality of care for children hospitalized with sepsis syndrome, all which are available within one hour of admission to the hospital. Researchers indicated the measures were effective at predicting 30-day death rates.

Researchers discovered about 70 percent of hospitals performed blood cultures on patients who were diagnosed with pediatric sepsis syndrome. Antibiotics were administered within one hour of severe sepsis or septic shock diagnosis in only 70 percent of patients. Antibiotics are one of the only effective methods of treating sepsis syndrome, yet 30 percent of patients didn’t get antibiotics after being diagnosed.

About half of patients had timely fluid resuscitation performed. Heart rate during fluid resuscitation was documented in only 18 percent of cases of children with severe sepsis or septic shock.

Two of the seven measures could not be rigorously tested for reliability. However, researchers said focusing on these measures early can help save children from severe side effects and even death.

The measures highlighted can effectively identify the children at the highest risk of death from sepsis syndrome, especially if the measures are taken soon after the child is admitted to the ICU. Doctors can then use newer tests and treatments to treat the patients.

Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose, as it can often mimic the symptoms of other childhood illnesses. The disease can also cause complications quite rapidly. However, correctly identifying sepsis can mean the difference between life and death for a child.

Symptoms of sepsis include, shivering, fever, extreme pain, clammy or sweaty skin, disorientation, high heart rate, and shortness of breath.

Each year 75,000 children and teens contract sepsis in the United States. In 2013, 7,000 youth died from sepsis syndrome. There are more than 30 million cases of sepsis infections each year worldwide in both adults and children, causing 6 million deaths. The early stage of the condition is the most crucial time to diagnose it to begin early treatment.


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