September 1, 2012

A 55-hospital initiative announced this week that a revamped procedure for diagnosing and treating sepsis in emergency room patients really can save lives. The collaborative is the hospitals’ response to the death of a 12-year-old boy whose severe sepsis went undiagnosed until it was too late. We discussed the casein August in a post about another study inspired by the boy’s death.

Half of the hospitals tested the new procedures over 18 months, focusing on adult patients. Children, the co-chair of the collaborative explained, pose many of the same challenges when it comes to sepsis, but the differences are significant enough to warrant different approaches.

The new procedures resulted in the mortality rate falling a full 18 percentage points from 41 percent to 23 percent. When the study started in Jan. 2011, the participating hospitals reported that 86 of their 209 patients with sepsis died. At the end of the study, there were many fewer fatalities: 56 out of 246 cases.

One of the challenges with sepsis is determining when an infection becomes septic, when an infection in a cut on a patient’s leg spreads to the patient’s blood stream or tissue. The solution was to use ultrasound to monitor blood flow and to run simple lab tests to keep an eye on certain markers that indicate an infection is getting worse. Not only is the approach effective, but it is not as resource-intensive as the alternatives.

It is not clear if the group will take on a study of pediatric emergency room patients.

Source: Crain’s Health Pulse, “Sepsis death rates drop in GNYHA collaborative,” Sept. 19, 2012

We work with families — like the family of the boy discussed in this post and our post in August — who have lost a loved one because of a medical error. To find out more about our practice, please visit our Portland and Seattle emergency room error page.


Categories: Blog