Significant overtreatment with antibiotics for suspected early onset sepsis (EOS) constitutes a persisting clinical problem, generating unnecessary risks, harms, and costs for many newborns. We aimed to study feasibility and impact of a sepsis calculator to help guide antibiotic for suspected EOS in a European setting. In this single-center study, the sepsis calculator was implemented as an addition to and in accordance with existing protocols. One thousand eight hundred seventy-seven newborns ≥ 35 weeks of gestational age were prospectively evaluated; an analogous retrospective control group (n = 2076) was used for impact analysis. We found that empirical treatment with intravenous antibiotics for suspected EOS was reduced from 4.8 to 2.7% after sepsis calculator implementation (relative risk reduction 44% (95% confidence interval 21.4-59.5%)). No evidence for changes in time to treatment start, treatment duration, or proven sepsis rates was found. Adherence to sepsis calculator recommendation was 91%.
Conclusion: Pragmatic and feasible implementation of the sepsis calculator yields a 44% reduction of empirical use of antibiotics for EOS, without signs of delay or prolongation of treatment. These findings warrant a multicenter, nation-wide, randomized study evaluating systematic use of the sepsis calculator prediction model and its effects in clinical practice outside of the USA. What is known: • Significant overtreatment with antibiotics for suspected early-onset sepsis results in unnecessary costs, risks, and harms. • Implementation of the sepsis calculator in the USA has resulted in a significant decrease in empirical antibiotic treatment, without apparent adverse events. What is new: • Implementation of the sepsis calculator in daily clinical decision-making in a Dutch teaching hospital is feasible in conjunction with existing protocols, with high adherence. • Antibiotic therapy for suspected early-onset sepsis was reduced by 44% following implementation of the calculator.
Keywords: Antibiotic stewardship; Early-onset sepsis; Neonatology; Sepsis calculator.