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Retrospective single-centre descriptive study of the characteristics, management and outcomes of adult patients with suspected sepsis in the emergency department
  1. Lisa Sabir1,
  2. Laura Wharton2,
  3. Steve Goodacre1
  1. 1School of Health and Related Research, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, The University of Sheffield Jessop Hospital for Women, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisa Sabir, The University of Sheffield School of Health and Related Research, Sheffield, Sheffield, UK; l.sabir{at}


Background Guidelines for adults presenting to the emergency department (ED) with suspected sepsis recommend protocols and bundles that promote rapid and potentially intensive treatment, but give little consideration of how patient characteristics, such as age, functional status and comorbidities, might influence management. This study aimed to describe the characteristics, management and outcomes of adults attending the ED with suspected sepsis, and specifically describe the prevalence of comorbidities, functional impairment and escalations of care.

Methods We undertook a single-centre retrospective observational study involving medical record review of a random sample of adults admitted to an ED between February 2018 and January 2019 with suspected sepsis. Descriptive statistics were used with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for key proportions.

Results We included 509 patients (median age 74 years), of whom 49.3% met the Sepsis-3 criteria. Less than half of the patients were living at home independently (42.5%) or could walk independently (41.5%), 19.3% were care home residents and 89.2% of patients had one or more comorbidity. 22% had a pre-existing do not attempt resuscitation order. 6.5% were referred to intensive care, and 34.3% of the 13.2% who died in-hospital had an escalation plan explicitly documented.

Conclusion Adults with suspected sepsis have substantial functional limitations, comorbidities and treatment directives that should be considered in guidelines, especially recommendations for escalation of care.

  • emergency department
  • infection
  • intensive care
  • clincial management
  • resuscitation
  • clinical care

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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  • Handling editor Ed Benjamin Graham Barnard

  • Contributors LS and SG were responsible for the conception and design of the study, data extraction (LS and LW), and analysis and interpretation (LS and SG). LS drafted the article and all other authors have revised it critically.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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