Episode 7: Sepsis

We hope you enjoyed our sepsis podcast. It is obviously a huge topic and there is lots of information to cover; a couple of other recently released podcasts are available which are produced with the Emergency Medicine community in mind, but will no doubt expand your knowledge.


St Emlyns Induction podcast on Sepsis. March 2016. A great summary of what to do when a patient with suspected sepsis first arrives in the ED.

And from our buddies at HEFT EM CAST:


A bit more detail covering some of the research in an easy to understand way. It particularly discussed the original Rivers trial which we mention in the podcast.

It’s worth remembering that sepsis is a spectrum of disease when assessing patients.


It is worth noting, that with “Sepsis 3” many of these terms will become out-of-date – but validation work is required…

The Rivers’ paper can be accessed here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa010307

It was a single centre study which compared standard care with protocolised resuscitation packaged together as early goal-directed therapy (EGDT). This is what the study did:

rivers jpg

As you will see the trial was relatively small – with only 263 patients being recruited into the trial. What was impressive, and changed practice, forming the basis of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, was the significant reduction in mortality. Patients in the standard care group had a mortality of 46% compared with the treatment group 30%, which was statistically significant (p=0.009).

Further large randomized controlled studies to try and demonstrate the same mortality benefit from Rivers-style EGDT have not shown the same results (Process, Arise, PROMISe). Patients in these trials were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The ‘intervention’ group received the new treatment, in this case EGDT, which was being tested. The ‘standard care’ group were looked after according to how the clinician would usually treat a patient with severe sepsis. This was the same principle as in the Rivers trial: the standard care group is the ‘control’ group against which changes in outcome for the ‘intervention’ group are compared. The mortality in both groups in all 3 trials was similar, there was not the significant reduction in mortality seen in the Rivers study. This was probably because, as we say in the podcast, ‘standard’ care for sepsis has improved considerably in the intervening years. The control group received many similar treatments as the ‘intervention’ group (just not full protocolised EGDT) highlighting that with good sepsis care (fluid resuscitation, close monitoring, early appropriate antibiotic administration), mortality can be reduced.

Red flag sepsis is a way of identifying those patients with sepsis who are high risk  and who warrant immediate treatment:

red flag

Have a look at the UK Sepsis Trust website: http://sepsistrust.org. There are toolkits available to download, including one specifically written for the prehospital environment with the College of Paramedics, which summarises the recognition and management of sepsis.

 Link to the Sepsis-3 guideline. 

Reviewed (again for the Emergency Medicine community) here.

When Tim talks about test characteristics he is referring to the ability of a test to correctly identify the presence or absence of an illness. Some may think that if a test is positive it always means the patient has the illness, or indeed if it is negative it rules out the possibility of that illness but this is not the case with many of the tests we use.

Think about ECG as an example,test So, where the box is green, the test has given us the correct result for the patient. But, where the box is red the test has given us the incorrect result: you will all be able to think about patients in whom the ECG was normal, but the patient turned out to have had an MI, or when the ECG showed an MI but the patient turned out not to have had one. These tables are used when assessing the usefulness of a test (or it’s sensitivity and specificity), and, when researching how useful tests are we need the majority of patients to fall into the green boxes.

We will put together a podcast on test characteristics over the next couple of months, which will explain this in more detail. An amazing podcast on the subject can be found at SMART EM: SMART Testing: Back to Basics

As always, any feedback, comments etc. – please let us know on the blog below!

  1. Herlitz J, ng AB, m BW-S, Axelsson C, Bremer A, Hagiwara M, et al. Suspicion and treatment of severe sepsis. An overview of the prehospital chain of care. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine; 2012 Jun 27;20(1):1–1.
  2. Studnek JR, Artho MR, Garner CL, Jones AE. The impact of emergency medical services on the ED care of severe sepsis. Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Jan;30(1):51–6.
  3. Puskarich MA, Marchick MR, Kline JA, Steuerwald MT, Jones AE. One year mortality of patients treated with an emergency department based early goal directed therapy protocol for severe sepsis and septic shock: a before and after study. Crit Care. 2009;13(5):R167.
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  9. Amado Alejandro Baez MD MSc MFFF, MD LC. ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT. Am J Emerg Med. Elsevier B.V; 2015 Oct 17;:1–16.
  10. Guerra WF, Mayfield TR, Meyers MS, Clouatre AE, Riccio JC. Early detection and treatment of patients with severe sepsis by prehospital personnel. J Emerg Med. 2013 Jun;44(6):1116–25.
  11. Gaieski DF, Mikkelsen ME, Band RA, Pines JM, Massone R, Furia FF, et al. Impact of time to antibiotics on survival in patients with severe sepsis or septic shock in whom early goal-directed therapy was initiated in the emergency department*. Crit Care Med. 2010 Apr;38(4):1045–53.
  12. Yealy DM, Huang DT, Delaney A, Knight M, Randolph AG, Daniels R, et al. Recognizing and managing sepsis: what needs to be done? ??? ??? 2015 Apr 24;:1–10.
  13. Báez AA, Hanudel P, Perez MT, Giráldez EM, Wilcox SR. Prehospital Sepsis Project (PSP): knowledge and attitudes of United States advanced out-of-hospital care providers. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2013 Apr;28(2):104–6.
  14. Harnden A. Parenteral penicillin for children with meningococcal disease before hospital admission: case-control study. BMJ. 2006 Jun 3;332(7553):1295–8.
  15. Femling J, Weiss S, Hauswald E. EMS Patients and Walk-In Patients Presenting With Severe Sepsis: Differences in Management and Outcome. South Med J. 2014.
  16. Gray A, Ward K, Lees F, Dewar C, Dickie S, McGuffie C, et al. The epidemiology of adults with severe sepsis and septic shock in Scottish emergency departments. Emergency Medicine Journal. 2013 Apr 12;30(5):397–401.
  17. Seymour CW, Cooke CR, Mikkelsen ME, Hylton J, Rea TD, Goss CH, et al. Out-of-hospital fluid in severe sepsis: effect on early resuscitation in the emergency department. Prehosp Emerg Care. 2010 Apr;14(2):145–52.
  18. Hahné SJM, Charlett A, Purcell B, Samuelsson S, Camaroni I, Ehrhard I, et al. Effectiveness of antibiotics given before admission in reducing mortality from meningococcal disease: systematic review. BMJ. 2006 Jun 3;332(7553):1299–303.
  19. Wang HE, Weaver MD, Shapiro NI, Yealy DM. Opportunities for Emergency Medical Services care of sepsis. Resuscitation. 2010 Feb;81(2):193–7


How to cite this podcast:

Nutbeam T, Bosanko C. Sepsis. PHEMCAST. 2016 [cite Date Accessed]. Available from: http://www.phemcast.co.uk

2 thoughts on “Episode 7: Sepsis

  1. Pingback: LITFL Review 227 | LITFL: Life in the Fast Lane Medical Blog

  2. Pingback: LITFL Review 227 • LITFL Medical Blog • FOAMed Review

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