Implementation of goal-directed therapy for children with suspected sepsis in the emergency department

Pediatrics. 2011 Mar;127(3):e758-66. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2895. Epub 2011 Feb 21.


Background: Suboptimal care for children with septic shock includes delayed recognition and inadequate fluid resuscitation.

Objective: To describe the implementation of an emergency department (ED) protocol for the recognition of septic shock and facilitate adherence to national treatment guidelines.

Patients and methods: Root-cause analyses and morbidity and mortality conferences identified system problems with sepsis recognition and management. A group of ED and critical care physicians met to identify barriers and create solutions.

Results: To facilitate sepsis recognition, a computerized triage system alarmed on abnormal vital signs, and then toxic-appearing children or children at high risk for invasive infection were placed in a resuscitation room. To facilitate timely delivery of interventions, additional nursing, respiratory therapy, and pharmacy personnel were recruited. Fluids were administered via syringe delivery; standardized laboratory studies and antibiotics were ordered and prioritized. Frequent vital-sign measurements and interventions were documented on a graphical flow sheet to facilitate interpretation of physiologic response to therapy. After protocol initiation, there were 191 encounters in 167 patients with suspected sepsis. When compared with children seen before the protocol, time from triage to first bolus decreased from a median of 56 to 22 minutes (P < .001) and triage to first antibiotics decreased from a median of 130 to 38 minutes (P < .001).

Conclusions: The protocol resulted in earlier recognition of suspected sepsis and substantial reductions in both time to receipt of time-sensitive interventions and a decrement in treatment variation.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Critical Care / standards*
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Sepsis / diagnosis
  • Sepsis / therapy*
  • Time Factors