November 25, 2019

Background: In 2016, Paul Marik published a study in Chest [2] demonstrating a decrease in hospital mortality of 32% for sepsis patients treated with vitamin C, thiamine and hydrocortisone.  The Marik protocol(as it has come to be known), entails IV vitamin C 1.5g q6hr for 4d + IV hydrocortisone 50mg q6hr for 7d + IV thiamine 200mg q12hr x4d. The authors’ hypothesis was that vitamin C, hydrocortisone, and thiamine have synergistic effects that reverse vasoplegic shock and potentially limit the duration of vasopressor treatment resulting in a reduction in organ and limb ischemia from vasopressors themselves.  Although the results of the study are promising, it is important to remember that this was only a hypothesis generating study.  We have been waiting for a randomized clinical trial to recreate the results of this study and finally we have our first of many… CITRIS-ALI. This randomized trial looks to see if high-dose vitamin C could reduce organ failure and biomarkers of inflammation and vascular injury in patients with sepsis and ARDS.

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.

August 19, 2019

Background: Antibiotics are one of the cornerstones of therapy in the treatment of sepsis/septic shock, however according to the Surviving Sepsis Campaign (SSC) guidelines, time to antibiotics is a core measure, though there is weak evidence in support of this.  Most of the evidence supporting this is based off retrospective studies that showed delays in the administration of antibiotics after the development of septic shock is associated with an increase in mortality of almost 7.6% per hour [3]. The major issues with retrospective studies are that they are uncontrolled, chart quality may be inaccurate, baseline status of patients may be unbalanced and thus allow selection bias that can affect the results. Although, prospective observational studies have failed to consistently show an association between early antibiotics and mortality benefit, the guidelines still recommend early antibiotic administration within an hour of sepsis recognition.

December 10, 2018

Background Information: Sepsis is a complex syndrome frequently encountered in the ED. This infection-triggered, multifaceted disorder of life-threatening organ dysfunction is due to the body’s dysregulated response to pathologic and biochemical abnormalities.2-4 There has been significant debate regarding the use of clinical decision tools such as Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) and quick Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) in the early recognition of sepsis.2,5-7­ Multiple studies have shown SIRS to not be specific enough for the early detection of sepsis as many non-infectious processes, including exercise, can often meet many of its criteria.8-10 On the other hand, qSOFA has been criticized as having poor sensitivity and moderate specificity for short-term mortality.11,12 Furthermore, qSOFA  has been described as clinically valuable but an imperfect marker of sepsis as some forms of organ dysfunction, such as hypoxemia and renal failure, are not assessed using qSOFA.5 Another severity score known as the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) focuses on inpatient deterioration in detecting patients with increased risk of early cardiac arrest, unanticipated ICU admission and death.13 One study showed that utilization of NEWS in the emergency department (ED) has been shown to be effective in recognizing patients with sepsis who are at a higher risk of adverse outcomes.14  The authors of this study sought to review the use of NEWS as an early sepsis screening score, a predictor of severe sepsis/septic shock, and compare it to SIRS and qSOFA in an ED triage setting.

April 16, 2018

Background: It is well established that the rapid identification of patients with sepsis is needed in order to initiate timely care to improve morbidity and mortality.  The systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria have been used for some time for screening, however the sensitivity and specificity of these criteria have been brought to question based on recent evidence [2]. This may have been one of the many reasons why the Sepsis-3 task force recommended the quick sequential (Sepsis-related) organ failure assessment (qSOFA) for prediction of mortality in sepsis. qSOFA consists of low blood pressure (SBP ≤100mmhg), increased respiratory rate (≥22bpm), and altered mental status (GCS ≤14).  2 or more of these criteria indicates  an increased risk of death.  There have been several studies calling into question the sensitivity of this criteria.  In this post, we will review a recent systematic review and meta-analysis assessing the prognostic value of qSOFA vs SIRS in adult patients with suspected infection in the ED, hospital wards, and the ICU.