Sepsis must be treated as a medical emergency, according to a new CDC report published Tuesday that outlines best practices for the prevention and detection of the condition.
Sepsis more deadly than heart attacks
Sepsis kills more than 258,000 Americans per year—more than die annually from heart attacks, CDC reports.
The condition results from the body's "overwhelming" response to infection. If detected early, it can usually be treated effectively. But sepsis can be easy to miss; there is no specific test for it, and symptoms vary widely.
Moreover, sepsis progresses so quickly that the difference between catching it "early" and "late" is often a matter of hours. When the condition progresses to severe sepsis, the mortality rate increases to between 25 and 30 percent. And when septic shock occurs, the mortality rate climbs further to 40 to 70 percent.
CDC wrote in its new report, "Sepsis is a medical emergency. Time matters. When sepsis is quickly recognized and treated, lives are saved."
CDC's best practices
According to CDC, about 70 percent of patients with sepsis had recently visited with a health care professional, suggesting that providers missed an opportunity to prevent or promptly treat their condition. CDC said that sepsis begins outside of a hospital for about 80 percent of patients.
To help support early detection, CDC in its report outlined common signs and symptoms of sepsis—including clammy skin, disorientation, extreme pain, an elevated heart rate, and shortness of breath—and identified gut, lung, skin, and urinary tract infections as the four types of infection most frequently associated with sepsis in adults.
According to CDC, those most at risk of the condition include the very young and very old, as well as those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems.
To help protect patients, CDC advised health care providers to:
- Act as quickly as possible if early detection measures raise concerns;
- Check patients' conditions frequently;
- Educate staff, patients, and family members about sepsis; and
- Follow infection control protocol.
CDC recommended that health care administrators and CEOs:
- Prioritize infection control;
- Train providers and frontline staff to quickly recognize and treat sepsis; and
- Improve infection control by collaborating with health departments and local facilities (Karidis, Washington Post, 8/23; Andrews, "Shots," Kaiser Health News/NPR, 8/23; CDC Vital Signs report, August 2016; Budryk, FierceHealthcare, 8/23).
10 imperatives to reduce sepsis mortality
The early signs of sepsis easily fly under the radar and treatment requires a significant amount of coordination among the care team, all within a short time. However, some organizations have consistently achieved better sepsis outcomes by setting a disciplined, defined standard for sepsis screening and treatment.
You can reduce sepsis mortality rates by using these ten tactics to build a system of care that coordinates care team responsibilities and delivers timely treatment for every sepsis patient, every time.