Early reversal of pediatric-neonatal septic shock by community physicians is associated with improved outcome

Pediatrics. 2003 Oct;112(4):793-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.112.4.793.


Objective: Experimental and clinical studies of septic shock support the concept that early resuscitation with fluid and inotropic therapies improves survival in a time-dependent manner. The new American College of Critical Care Medicine-Pediatric Advanced Life Support (ACCM-PALS) Guidelines for hemodynamic support of newborns and children in septic shock recommend this therapeutic approach. The objective of this study was to determine whether early septic shock reversal and use of resuscitation practice consistent with the new ACCM-PALS Guidelines by community physicians is associated with improved outcome.

Methods: A 9-year (January 1993-December 2001) retrospective cohort study was conducted of 91 infants and children who presented to local community hospitals with septic shock and required transport to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Shock reversal (defined by return of normal systolic blood pressure and capillary refill time), resuscitation practice concurrence with ACCM-PALS Guidelines, and hospital mortality were measured.

Results: Overall, 26 (29%) patients died. Community physicians successfully achieved shock reversal in 24 (26%) patients at a median time of 75 minutes (when the transport team arrived at the patient's bedside), which was associated with 96% survival and >9-fold increased odds of survival (9.49 [1.07-83.89]). Each additional hour of persistent shock was associated with >2-fold increased odds of mortality (2.29 [1.19-4.44]). Nonsurvivors, compared with survivors, were treated with more inotropic therapies (dopamine/dobutamine [42% vs 20%] and epinephrine/norepinephrine [42% vs 6%]) but not increased fluid therapy (median volume; 32.9 mL/kg vs 20.0 mL/kg). Resuscitation practice was consistent with ACCM-PALS Guidelines in only 27 (30%) patients; however, when practice was in agreement with guideline recommendations, a lower mortality was observed (8% vs 38%).

Conclusions: Early recognition and aggressive resuscitation of pediatric-neonatal septic shock by community physicians can save lives. Educational programs that promote ACCM-PALS recommended rapid, stepwise escalations in fluid as well as inotropic therapies may have value in improving outcomes in these children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Community Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitals, Community / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / therapeutic use
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Resuscitation / methods*
  • Resuscitation / standards
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shock, Septic / mortality
  • Shock, Septic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hydrocortisone