Objectives: To describe the effectiveness of a comprehensive, interdisciplinary sepsis treatment protocol with regard to both implementation and outcomes and to compare the mortality rates and therapies of patients with septic shock with similar historical controls.
Design: Prospective, interventional cohort study with a historical control comparison group.
Setting: Urban, tertiary care, university hospital with 46,000 emergency department visits and 4,100 intensive care unit admissions annually.
Patients: Inclusion criteria were a) emergency department patients aged ≥18 yrs, b) suspected infection, and c) lactate of >4 mmol/L or septic shock. Exclusion criteria were a) emergent operation, b) prehospital cardiac arrest, and c) comfort measures only. Time period: protocol, November 10, 2003, through November 9, 2004; historical controls, February 1, 2000, through January 31, 2001.
Intervention: A sepsis treatment pathway incorporating empirical antibiotics, early goal-directed therapy, drotrecogin alfa, steroids, intensive insulin therapy, and lung-protective ventilation.
Measurements and Main Results: There were 116 protocol patients, with a mortality rate of 18% (11–25%), of which 79 patients had septic shock. Comparing these patients with 51 historical controls, protocol patients received more fluid (4.0 vs. 2.5 L crystalloid, p < .001), earlier antibiotics (90 vs. 120 mins, p < .013), more appropriate empirical coverage (97% vs. 88%, p < .05), more vasopressors in the first 6 hrs (80% vs. 45%, p < .001), tighter glucose control (mean morning glucose, 123 vs. 140, p < .001), and more frequent assessment of adrenal function (82% vs. 10%, p < .001), with a nonstatistically significant increase in dobutamine use (14% vs. 4%, p = .06) and red blood cell transfusions (30% vs. 18%, p = .07) in the first 24 hrs. For protocol patients with septic shock, 28-day in-hospital mortality was 20.3% compared with 29.4% for historical controls (p = .3).
Conclusions: Clinical implementation of a comprehensive sepsis treatment protocol is feasible and is associated with changes in therapies such as time to antibiotics, intravenous fluid delivery, and vasopressor use in the first 6 hrs. No statistically significant decrease in mortality was demonstrated, as this trial was not sufficiently powered to assess mortality benefits.