7-Part EMS Screening Tool Boosts Early Sepsis Treatment

By Christopher Cheney

Emergency medical service screening for sepsis speeds administration of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign 3-hour bundle of treatment, new research shows.

On an annual basis, sepsis affects about 1.7 million American adults and the infection is linked to more than 250,000 deaths. Timely application of the 3-hour bundle has been associated with reduced mortality.

In the new research, EMS crews conducted sepsis screening of patients before emergency department arrival, a co-author of the study told HealthLeaders.

“We implemented a standard operating procedure for sepsis screening—seven questions for the emergency department RN to ask EMS in any adult patients excluding trauma. When sepsis was suspected, the radio RN would notify the charge nurse to help get them into a room. The key takeaways are that implementing a sepsis screening tool for EMS to use is feasible and it helps to expedite care in these patients,” said Megan Rech, PharmD, MS, an emergency medicine clinical pharmacist and adjunct assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University, Chicago.

In the primary finding of the research, 3-hour bundle compliance was significantly higher using the EMS sepsis screening tool compared to a control group, 80.0% vs. 44.2%, respectively.

The bundle has four main components: measurement of serum lactate concentration, fluid resuscitation, blood cultures prior to antimicrobials, and broad-spectrum antibiotics for suspected or documented infection.

The EMS sepsis screening tool had seven elements:

1. Respiratory rate: N20 breaths per minute

2. Heart rate: N90 beats per minute

3. Systolic blood pressure: b90 mm Hg

4. Documented fever or history of temperature: N100.9 °F or b96.8 °F

5. Onset of mental status change

6. Oxygen saturation: b90%

7. Suspected infection

“There is great potential in the pre-hospital setting for earlier recognition of sepsis in patients arriving to the ED via EMS. Early recognition of sepsis will allow medical personnel to initiate sepsis protocol and decrease an important variable in sepsis mortality: time. We demonstrated that the use of a pre-hospital sepsis screening tool was associated with significant improvement in 3-hour bundle compliance, likely due to improved recognition of sepsis,” Rech and her co-authors wrote.