Source control in the management of severe sepsis and septic shock: an evidence-based review

Crit Care Med. 2004 Nov;32(11 Suppl):S513-26. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000143119.41916.5d.


Objective: In 2003, critical care and infectious disease experts representing 11 international organizations developed management guidelines for source control in the management of severe sepsis and septic shock that would be of practical use for the bedside clinician, under the auspices of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, an international effort to increase awareness and to improve outcome in severe sepsis.

Design: The process included a modified Delphi method, a consensus conference, several subsequent smaller meetings of subgroups and key individuals, teleconferences, and electronic-based discussion among subgroups and among the entire committee.

Methods: The modified Delphi methodology used for grading recommendations built on a 2001 publication sponsored by the International Sepsis Forum. We undertook a systematic review of the literature graded along five levels to create recommendation grades from A to E, with A being the highest grade. Pediatric considerations to contrast adult and pediatric management are in the article by Parker et al. on p. S591.

Conclusion: Source control represents a key component of success in therapy of sepsis. It includes drainage of infected fluids, debridement of infected soft tissues, removal of infected devices or foreign bodies, and finally, definite measures to correct anatomic derangement resulting in ongoing microbial contamination and to restore optimal function. Although highly logical, since source control is the best way to reduce quickly the bacterial inoculum, most recommendations are, however, graded as D or E due to the difficulty to perform appropriate randomized clinical trials in this respect. Appropriate source control should be part of the systematic checklist we have to keep in mind in setting up the therapeutic strategy in sepsis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Consensus Development Conferences as Topic
  • Debridement
  • Empyema / therapy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Infections / therapy*
  • Lung Abscess / therapy
  • Mediastinitis / therapy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Sepsis / etiology*
  • Sepsis / therapy
  • Shock, Septic / etiology*
  • Shock, Septic / therapy
  • Sinusitis / therapy
  • Soft Tissue Infections / therapy