Sepsis deaths plummet after implementation of new emergency department protocol

October 5, 2016

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when an infection spreads throughout the bloodstream. It affects approximately 30,000 Canadians each year and carries a death rate much higher than other critical conditions treated in the emergency department, such as heart attacks or strokes. It is also one of the most expensive conditions to treat, often requiring long stays in intensive care. In an effort to reduce the burden of this condition, an interdisciplinary group of physicians, nurses and scientists at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa developed and implemented a new bundled approach to sepsis care. This involved updating the emergency department sepsis protocol, implementing a comprehensive sepsis education campaign, promoting earlier recognition by modifying the triage algorithm, improving patient-flagging and giving nurses more authority to initiate treatment. The implementation of this new sepsis initiative resulted in a substantial decline in patient death rates, from 31 percent to 17 percent. This would translate into approximately 50 lives saved per year at The Ottawa Hospital and substantially reduced costs. See Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine for details.

Authors: McColl T, Gatien M, Calder L, Yadav K, Tam R, Ong M, Taljaard M, Stiell I.

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