New guidance for addressing sepsis in children endorsed by top pediatric and critical care organizations

The first evidence-based guidelines for recognizing and treating sepsis in children were released this month by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, a collaboration of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine.

The “Surviving Sepsis Campaign International Guidelines for the Management of Septic Shock and Sepsis-Associated Organ Dysfunction in Children” addresses sepsis care for children in settings both with and without intensive care services.


Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection, and can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Matthew Eisenberg M.D., M.P.H., Director of Critical Care, Division of Emergency Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, has championed the need for a greater understanding of this dangerous condition when the patient is a child.

“These guidelines are a really important statement of the best practices around pediatric sepsis. The recommendations cover every element of sepsis care from screening in the emergency department through treatment in the intensive care unit, with summaries of the evidence that supports that recommendation,” says Dr. Eisenberg. “Every hospital that cares for children should work towards implementing processes to identify kids with sepsis and protocols for treating them based on these or other evidence-based guidelines.”

In a survey of all 71 emergency departments and satellite emergency facilities in Massachusetts in 2019, the Betsy Lehman Center found that while 67 provide emergency care for children, only 9 had protocols for diagnosing and treating pediatric patients with sepsis. Less is known about sepsis care for children in critical or intensive care settings.

The guidelines have been endorsed by a number of medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, American College of Emergency Physicians and Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

The Massachusetts Sepsis Consortium compiled tools and best practice case studies for pediatric sepsis that can be found here on the Betsy Lehman Center website. The Consortium is a public-private partnership aimed at improving diagnosis and treatment of sepsis in settings throughout the Commonwealth.


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