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Scope and epidemiology of pediatric sepsis

Watson, R Scott MD, MPH; Carcillo, Joseph A. MD

Pediatric Critical Care Medicine:
Scientific Reviews

Objective: To summarize the scope and epidemiology of pediatric sepsis.

Design: Review of published literature.

Results: Sepsis is a leading cause of death in infants and children, with >42,000 cases of severe sepsis annually in the United States and millions worldwide. Half of the children with severe sepsis in the United States are infants, and half of infants are low- or very low-birth-weight babies. Underlying disease occurs in 49% of U.S. children with severe sepsis. National hospital costs associated with severe sepsis in the United States were $2.3 billion in 1999. Relatively simple strategies to identify and treat children with sepsis in the developing world have shown remarkable success. These strategies have included empirical antibiotics in babies at high risk of sepsis and aggressive fluid resuscitation in Dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Conclusions: Sepsis is a major health problem among children in both developing and industrialized countries. However, sepsis is both preventable and treatable. Improved prevention and treatment of sepsis could have a substantial effect on survival and quality of life of all children, both those who are otherwise healthy and those who are chronically ill. The variations in the epidemiology of pediatric sepsis underscore the need for a multidisciplinary approach and consistently applied definitions.

Author Information

From the Department of Critical Care Medicine (RSW, JAC), Center for Research on Health Care (RSW), and the Clinical Research, Investigation, and Systems Modeling in Acute Illness (CRISMA) Laboratory (RSW), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

This work was supported by the Mannion Family Fund—Center for the Critically Ill Child, Division of Critical Care Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, the PALISI Network, and the ISF.

©2005The Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies