International pediatric sepsis consensus conference: definitions for sepsis and organ dysfunction in pediatrics

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2005 Jan;6(1):2-8. doi: 10.1097/01.PCC.0000149131.72248.E6.


Objective: Although general definitions of the sepsis continuum have been published for adults, no such work has been done for the pediatric population. Physiologic and laboratory variables used to define the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and organ dysfunction require modification for the developmental stages of children. An international panel of 20 experts in sepsis and clinical research from five countries (Canada, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States) was convened to modify the published adult consensus definitions of infection, sepsis, severe sepsis, septic shock, and organ dysfunction for children.

Design: Consensus conference.

Methods: This document describes the issues surrounding consensus on four major questions addressed at the meeting: a) How should the pediatric age groups affected by sepsis be delineated? b) What are the specific definitions of pediatric SIRS, infection, sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock? c) What are the specific definitions of pediatric organ failure and the validity of pediatric organ failure scores? d) What are the appropriate study populations and study end points required to successfully conduct clinical trials in pediatric sepsis? Five subgroups first met separately and then together to evaluate the following areas: signs and symptoms of sepsis, cell markers, cytokines, microbiological data, and coagulation variables. All conference participants approved the final draft of the proceedings of the meeting.

Results: Conference attendees modified the current criteria used to define SIRS and sepsis in adults to incorporate pediatric physiologic variables appropriate for the following subcategories of children: newborn, neonate, infant, child, and adolescent. In addition, the SIRS definition was modified so that either criteria for fever or white blood count had to be met. We also defined various organ dysfunction categories, severe sepsis, and septic shock specifically for children. Although no firm conclusion was made regarding a single appropriate study end point, a novel nonmortality end point, organ failure-free days, was considered optimal for pediatric clinical trials given the relatively low incidence of mortality in pediatric sepsis compared with adult populations.

Conclusion: We modified the adult SIRS criteria for children. In addition, we revised definitions of severe sepsis and septic shock for the pediatric population. Our goal is for these first-generation pediatric definitions and criteria to facilitate the performance of successful clinical studies in children with sepsis.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • International Cooperation
  • Multiple Organ Failure / classification
  • Multiple Organ Failure / diagnosis*
  • Pediatrics / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Sepsis / classification
  • Sepsis / diagnosis*