Pediatric Sepsis Diagnosis, Management, and Sub-phenotypes

Pediatrics. 2024 Jan 1;153(1):e2023062967. doi: 10.1542/peds.2023-062967.


Sepsis and septic shock are major causes of morbidity, mortality, and health care costs for children worldwide, including >3 million deaths annually and, among survivors, risk for new or worsening functional impairments, including reduced quality of life, new respiratory, nutritional, or technological assistance, and recurrent severe infections. Advances in understanding sepsis pathophysiology highlight a need to update the definition and diagnostic criteria for pediatric sepsis and septic shock, whereas new data support an increasing role for automated screening algorithms and biomarker combinations to assist earlier recognition. Once sepsis or septic shock is suspected, attention to prompt initiation of broad-spectrum empiric antimicrobial therapy, fluid resuscitation, and vasoactive medications remain key components to initial management with several new and ongoing studies offering new insights into how to optimize this approach. Ultimately, a key goal is for screening to encompass as many children as possible at risk for sepsis and trigger early treatment without increasing unnecessary broad-spectrum antibiotics and preventable hospitalizations. Although the role for adjunctive treatment with corticosteroids and other metabolic therapies remains incompletely defined, ongoing studies will soon offer updated guidance for optimal use. Finally, we are increasingly moving toward an era in which precision therapeutics will bring novel strategies to improve outcomes, especially for the subset of children with sepsis-induced multiple organ dysfunction syndrome and sepsis subphenotypes for whom antibiotics, fluid, vasoactive medications, and supportive care remain insufficient.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Quality of Life
  • Sepsis* / drug therapy
  • Sepsis* / therapy
  • Shock, Septic* / diagnosis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents