CDC urges early detection for sepsis prevention

Experts have described sepsis as more “insidious” than other threats, and new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines best practices to help promote early detection and prevention of the condition.

More than 9 in 10 adults and 7 in 10 children diagnosed with sepsis had a health condition putting them at risk for the condition, according to the CDC's "Vital Signs" report, released Tuesday. Sepsis is often associated with four types of infection: lung, gut, skin and urinary tract, according to the report.

As the federal government works to improve sepsis detection tools, providers can take several steps to protect patients, according to the CDC, including:

  • Following infection control protocols
  • Educating patients and family members about sepsis
  • Check patient condition as often as possible
  • Act as fast as possible if early detection efforts set off any red flags

Similar to strokes or heart attacks, the speed with which sepsis is identified can make all the difference. “The work you do in those first three to six hours in the emergency department makes more difference in cost than the whole next several weeks in the [intensive care unit],” Todd L. Slesinger, M.D., emergency medicine residency program director at Aventura (Fla.) Hospital and Medical Center, told Kaiser Health News.

In the meantime, patients and providers can both reduce the risk for sepsis by improving hygiene and watching for symptoms like rapid breathing or heart rate, pale or discolored skin and confusion. Mortality from the condition decreased slightly between 2000 and 2010 but began to tick back up again over the next two years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Since 2010, research funding has increased somewhat, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.


The death of Muhammad Ali in June from sepsis complications boosted the condition’s profile, shining a spotlight on the importance of early detection in healthcare. Earlier in the year, an international task force led by doctors from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the university’s School of Medicine established a concrete, updated definition of the condition.

- here's the CDC report
- read the KHN story