Conference Coverage

What’s new in pediatric sepsis



– The dogma of the “Golden Hour” for the immediate management of pediatric sepsis has been oversold and actually is based upon weak evidence, Luregn J. Schlapbach, MD, asserted at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases.

The true Golden Hour– that is, the time frame within which it’s imperative to administer the sepsis bundle comprised of appropriate antibiotics, fluids, and inotropes– is probably more like 3 hours.

Dr. Luregn J. Schlapbach of Queensland Children's Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Luregn J. Schlapbach

“The evidence suggests that up to 3 hours you don’t really have a big difference in outcomes for sepsis. If you recognize shock there’s no question: You should not even wait 1 hour. But if you’re not certain, it may be better to give up to 3 hours to work up the child and get the senior clinician involved before you make decisions about treatment. So I’m not advocating to delay anything, I’m advocating that if you’re not sure this is sepsis, allow yourself an hour or 2 to make a proper investigation,” said Dr. Schlapbach, a pediatric intensivist at the Child Health Research Center at the University of Queensland in South Brisbane, Australia.

The problem with a 1-hour mandate for delivery of the sepsis bundle, as recommended in guidelines by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign and the American College of Critical Care Medicine, and endorsed in quality improvement initiatives, is that the time pressure pushes physicians to overprescribe antibiotics to children who don’t actually have a serious bacterial infection. And that, he noted, contributes to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.

“You may have a child where you’re not too sure. Usually you would have done a urine culture because UTI [urinary tract infection] is quite a common cause of these infections, and many of these kids aren’t necessarily septic. But if people tell you that within 1 hour you need to treat, are you going to take the time to do the urine culture, or are you just going to decide to treat?” he asked rhetorically.

Dr. Schlapbach is a world-renowned pediatric sepsis researcher. He is far from alone in his reservations about the Golden Hour mandate.

“This is one of the reasons why IDSA [the Infectious Diseases Society of America] has not endorsed the Surviving Sepsis Campaign,” according to the physician, who noted that, in a position statement, IDSA officials have declared that discrimination of sepsis from noninfectious conditions remains a challenge, and that a 60-minute time to antibiotics may jeopardize patient reassessment (Clin Infect Dis. 2018 May 15;66[10]:1631-5).

Dr. Schlapbach highlighted other recent developments in pediatric sepsis.

The definition of adult sepsis has changed, and the pediatric version needs to as well

The revised definition of sepsis, known as Sepsis-3, issued by the International Sepsis Definition Task Force in 2016 notably dropped systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), as a requirement for sepsis (JAMA. 2016;315[8]:801-10). The revised definition characterizes sepsis as a dysregulated host response to infection resulting in life-threatening organ dysfunction. But Sepsis-3 is based entirely on adult data and is not considered applicable to children.


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