Quality & Patient Safety

CDC launches campaign to catch sepsis early

Patient Safety Monitor, January 1, 2018

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a campaign to help bring attention to the dangers of sepsis, a condition that is fast becoming the number one cause of death in U.S. hospitals.

Called “Get Ahead of Sepsis,” the program was launched last August as an educational initiative to protect Americans from the devastating effects of sepsis, including emphasizing the importance of early recognition and rapid treatment, as well as the importance of preventing infections that could lead to sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Each year in the U.S., more than 1.5 million people develop sepsis, and at least 250,000 Americans die as a result.

Research shows that mortality rates increase quickly—even within a matter of hours—if sepsis goes untreated. A study released by the CDC found that seven in 10 patients with sepsis had recently used healthcare services or had a chronic disease requiring frequent medical care, indicating that there are opportunities to detect the infection before it’s too late.

To make matters worse, the treatment and screening for sepsis could lead to an increase in other common and pesky healthcare infections, including Clostridium difficile (C. diff), according to a new report published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

In that study, titled Impact of an electronic sepsis initiative on antibiotic use and health care facility–onset Clostridium difficile infection rates, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City used data collected from four patient wards between June 2011 and July 2014 to analyze the unintended consequences of sepsis screening and treatment protocols, which generally involves large amounts of antibiotics.

“We found that the implementation of an integrated sepsis initiative coincided with changes in use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and [healthcare facility–onset] CDI rates in adult patients admitted to medical wards,” the authors of the study wrote. “Because these protocols are increasingly used, further study of their unintended consequences is warranted.”

According to the CDC, public education is critical to save lives since, for many patients, sepsis develops from an infection that begins outside the hospital, and treatment goes on from there once admitted.

However, many patients still aren’t aware of what sepsis is or how to identify warning signs. A 2016 survey by the Sepsis Alliance found that only 55% of Americans have heard of sepsis.


This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Patient Safety Monitor.

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