Getting Ahead of Sepsis

PUBLISHED: Apr 26, 2018
Relevant to: Critical Access Hospitals, Hospitals

Healthcare providers are key to preventing the infections and illnesses that can lead to sepsis. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one study estimated 1.7 million cases of sepsis in 2014 in the U.S., which likely contributed to over 270,000 deaths; patients who survive sepsis often suffer long-term physical, psychological, and cognitive disabilities.

The challenge with sepsis is that there is no confirmatory diagnostic test. Instead, the diagnosis of sepsis requires clinical judgment based on evidence of infection and organ dysfunction.

The CDC’s Get Ahead of Sepsis program is an educational initiative designed to emphasize the importance of early recognition and timely treatment of sepsis, as well as the importance of preventing infections that could lead to sepsis. Get Ahead of Sepsis calls on healthcare professionals to educate patients, prevent infections, suspect and identify sepsis early, and start sepsis treatment quickly.

Key Reminders about Sepsis:

  • Almost any type of infection can trigger sepsis; four types of infections often linked with sepsis are lung, urinary tract, skin, and gut.
  • Frequently identified pathogens associated with sepsis include Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Escherichia coli (E. coli), and some types of Streptococcus.
  • Anyone can get an infection, almost any infection can lead to sepsis.
  • Know sepsis signs to identify and treat patients early: shortness of breath, confusion or disorientation, elevated heart rate, fever, feeling cold, pain/discomfort.
  • Act fast if you suspect sepsis:
    • Start antibiotics as soon as possible, in addition to other therapies appropriate for the patient.
    • Check patient progress frequently.
    • Reassess antibiotic therapy within 24-48 hours to stop or change therapy as needed. Be sure antibiotic type, dose, and duration are correct.
  • Prevent infections by following infection control practices (e.g., hand hygiene, catheter removal) and ensuring patients receive recommended vaccines.
  • Educate your patients and their families about:
    • Preventing infections
    • Keeping cuts clean and covered until healed
    • Managing chronic conditions
    • Recognizing early signs of worsening infection and sepsis and seeking immediate care if signs are present.

There are not currently any Federal requirements requiring hospitals to adopt sepsis protocols. However, some states (New York, New Jersey, Illinois) have passed laws mandating the implementation of sepsis protocols. Healthcare providers in those states should verify sepsis protocol requirements.

The CDC has many excellent resources to help healthcare professionals educate themselves and their patients about sepsis. Links to those resources are provided below. Also included with today’s notice is an example policy addressing sepsis education for patients at discharge.

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