Background: To be able to diagnose and treat sepsis better it is important not only to improve the knowledge about definitions and pathophysiology, but also to gain more insight into specialists' perception of, and attitude towards, the current diagnosis and treatment of sepsis.
Methods: The study was conducted as a prospective, international survey by structured telephone interview. The subjects were intensive care physicians and other specialist physicians caring for intensive care unit (ICU) patients.
Results: The 1058 physicians who were interviewed (including 529 intensivists) agreed that sepsis is a leading cause of death on the ICU and that the incidence of sepsis is increasing, but that the symptoms of sepsis can easily be misattributed to other conditions. Physicians were concerned that this could lead to under-reporting of sepsis. Two-thirds (67%) were concerned that a common definition is lacking and 83% said it is likely that sepsis is frequently missed. Not more than 17% agreed on any one definition.
Conclusion: There is a general awareness about the inadequacy of the current definitions of sepsis. Physicians caring for patients with sepsis recognise the difficulty of defining and diagnosing sepsis and are aware that they miss the diagnosis frequently.