November 7, 2019
Background: Despite minimal high-quality supporting evidence (Seymour 2017, Liu 2017, Ferrer 2014, Sterling 2015), regulatory bodies have pushed for benchmark times for administration of antibiotics in patients with sepsis. While most clinicians would agree that in patients with septic shock antibiotics should be given as quickly as possible, the same does not hold true for those patients with less severe infections. In the US, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) currently mandates that antibiotics be started in patients within 3 hours of onset of new organ dysfunction in patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome and documented infection. The Surviving Sepsis Campaign (SSC) has even more extreme recommendations stating that antibiotics should be started within 1 hour from triage in septic patients (Levy 2018). Based on prior experience with arbitrary time to antibiotic administration (see community acquired pneumonia), such draconian recommendations are likely to increase inappropriate use of antibiotics, distract clinicians from more important tasks and have minimal effect on patient outcomes. This is likely why the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) declined endorsement of the SSC guidelines. The ridiculous nature of these recommendations has been discussed elsewhere.
Even if the recommendation had some merit, it’s important to ask whether it’s even possible to implement. None of those on the SSC committee work in emergency departments and their understanding of the logistical challenges of such a policy is limited....Read More