Emergency department clinical leaders eager to provide early treatment for pediatric sepsis: But some want clearer guidelines, metrics in treating this often deadly condition

In a qualitative, interview-based study of Emergency Department leaders, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found most were motivated to provide high quality pediatric sepsis care but disagreed on how best to do it.

“Pediatric sepsis is a time sensitive emergency, and a leading cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality,” said the study’s lead author Halden Scott, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “Preventing sepsis deaths through early recognition and treatment is a global and national public health priority.”

Scott is an expert on treating sepsis, a potentially deadly reaction to severe infection that can lead to multiple organ failure. Doctors usually treat it with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. The first hour of treatment is critical.

For children, the first hour of emergency care occurs in the Emergency Department (ED) closest to where they are, usually a general ED that cares for adults and children. Efforts to improve the quality of emergency care of sepsis have largely focused on children’s EDs. In this study, Scott sought to understand the factors driving quality of sepsis care in general EDs.

The study, published today in the journal, Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that general ED leaders were interested in providing high-quality sepsis care, but also expressed a desire for more actionable pediatric sepsis guidelines.

They also emphasized the role of children’s hospitals in providing consultation and education to staff at other health care facilities. But the doctors had mixed emotions about reportable metrics, especially in EDs that saw fewer pediatric patients.

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