JEMS | Approaches in Prehospital Sepsis Screening
by Katherine J. Coulter, Mary F. Hintzsche
Sepsis is a life-threatening emergency. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2019), at least 1.7 million American adults develop sepsis each year, of which 270,000 die from sepsis-related complications. Sepsis is an underlying infection that occurs in an individual’s body when he/she responds to a severe infection.1 An infection that may result in sepsis is not limited to one system of a person’s body,2 but often, sepsis is linked to infections in the lungs, kidneys, skin or bowels.1
Emergency medical service providers transfer approximately 50% of septic patients.3 Septic patients are very ill. These patients are at increased risk of death if sepsis progresses to septic shock.3 Without timely identification of sepsis, and prompt intervention methods to decrease the infection’s severity, an individual’s likelihood of mortality increases.
The CDC has several sepsis-related projects underway. Projects developed by the CDC to reduce sepsis mortality rates include community and consumer education, developing tools for tracking and surveilling sepsis, and further preventing infections contracted in healthcare settings.1 In 2016, the CDC created an early recognition and timely sepsis treatment effort entitled “Get Ahead of Sepsis.”2 The purpose of this effort is to emphasize the critical nature of early recognition of sepsis, prevention of infection through education to the layperson, emergency medical services (EMS), and healthcare professionals.