Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection. Almost any infection, whether bacterial, viral, or fungal in origin, can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent medical care to prevent tissue damage, organ damage, and death.
Sepsis is a leading cause of hospital mortality in the United States. There are an estimated 1.7 million adult sepsis hospitalizations annually, of which 350,000 result in hospital death or discharge to hospice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most sepsis cases (nearly 87%) begin in the community and are transported to the hospital by emergency medical services (EMS) providers. Since sepsis can progress quickly and unpredictably, it is critical to recognize signs of sepsis and intervene early to help these patients. EMS providers play an essential role in early sepsis intervention.
The Sepsis Alliance Institute released a course this month covering the latest research on prehospital sepsis care. Research shows that when EMS providers are trained to recognize signs of sepsis and alert the hospital that sepsis is suspected when the patient is transferred to the emergency room, patients’ sepsis survival rates in the hospital are significantly improved.
Sepsis presentation is heterogeneous and can be tricky to identify in the field. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an EMS Card with an at-a-glance list of the signs and symptoms of sepsis an EMS provider might see and the information that should be gathered from a patient to help determine whether sepsis should be suspected.
For more in-depth information on how to recognize signs and symptoms of sepsis in the prehospital setting, the CDC recommends the following three awareness courses for EMS from the Sepsis Alliance Institute:
- Sepsis: First Response. This course can be taken for up to 1.9 hours of continuing education credit via the Sepsis Alliance’s learning management system. A 16-minute standalone video presenting all content in this course is also available via the Sepsis Alliance’s YouTube channel.
- Sepsis: Pediatric First Response. This course can be taken for 2.5 hours of continuing education credit. A 17-minute standalone video is also available.
- Disaster Medicine: Sepsis. This course can be taken for 1.5 hours of continuing education credit.
EMS medical directors, coordinators, paramedics, EMTs, and anyone interested in the latest evidence on the impact of prehospital care of sepsis patients may also benefit from the Sepsis Alliance’s latest course, Prehospital Sepsis Care Research Update, 2023. The course is presented by an EMS Coordinator from the Ridgefield (Conn.) Fire Department. The presentation discusses several recently published papers that have reshaped the emergency medical community’s understanding of prehospital alerts as well as prehospital sepsis treatment with fluid administration and antibiotics.
Throughout September, the CDC encourages all healthcare professionals to educate patients, their loved ones and caregivers about how to protect themselves and prevent sepsis using the shareable educational materials in its Get Ahead of Sepsis awareness campaign. Use hashtag #SAM2023 on social media.