Rationale: The 2016 definitions of sepsis included the quick Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) score to identify high-risk patients outside the intensive care unit (ICU).
Objectives: We sought to compare qSOFA with other commonly used early warning scores.
Methods: All admitted patients who first met the criteria for suspicion of infection in the emergency department (ED) or hospital wards from November 2008 until January 2016 were included. The qSOFA, Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS), Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS), and the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) were compared for predicting death and ICU transfer.
Measurements and main results: Of the 30,677 included patients, 1,649 (5.4%) died and 7,385 (24%) experienced the composite outcome (death or ICU transfer). Sixty percent (n = 18,523) first met the suspicion criteria in the ED. Discrimination for in-hospital mortality was highest for NEWS (area under the curve [AUC], 0.77; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.76-0.79), followed by MEWS (AUC, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.71-0.74), qSOFA (AUC, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.67-0.70), and SIRS (AUC, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.63-0.66) (P < 0.01 for all pairwise comparisons). Using the highest non-ICU score of patients, ≥2 SIRS had a sensitivity of 91% and specificity of 13% for the composite outcome compared with 54% and 67% for qSOFA ≥2, 59% and 70% for MEWS ≥5, and 67% and 66% for NEWS ≥8, respectively. Most patients met ≥2 SIRS criteria 17 hours before the combined outcome compared with 5 hours for ≥2 and 17 hours for ≥1 qSOFA criteria.
Conclusions: Commonly used early warning scores are more accurate than the qSOFA score for predicting death and ICU transfer in non-ICU patients. These results suggest that the qSOFA score should not replace general early warning scores when risk-stratifying patients with suspected infection.
Keywords: early warning scores; organ dysfunction scores; qSOFA; sepsis; systemic inflammatory response syndrome.