In 2003, critical care and infectious disease experts representing 11 international organizations developed management guidelines for the use of corticosteroid therapy in patients with sepsis and septic shock that would be of practical use for the bedside clinician, under the auspices of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, an international effort to increase awareness and improve outcome in severe sepsis.
The process included a modified Delphi method, a consensus conference, several subsequent smaller meetings of subgroups and key individuals, teleconferences, and electronic-based discussion among subgroups and among the entire committee.
The modified Delphi methodology used for grading recommendations built upon a 2001 publication sponsored by the International Sepsis Forum. We undertook a systematic review of the literature graded along five levels to create recommendation grades from A to E, with A being the highest grade. Pediatric considerations to contrast adult and pediatric management are in the article by Parker et al. on p. S591.
Low doses of corticosteroids are recommended in patients with septic shock. In the absence of vasopressor requirement, corticosteroids should not be used to treat sepsis. High-dose corticosteroids are not recommended in severe sepsis. The use of adrenal function tests to guide decisions on corticosteroid therapy, the weaning of steroids at the end of the treatment period, the decision to discontinue steroids earlier with resolution of shock, and the addition of oral fludrocortisone are considered optional approaches.