Sepsis is a syndrome of life-threatening organ dysfunction resulting from a dysregulated host response to an infection. In Canada, 1 in 18 deaths are directly related to or complicated by sepsis, with the condition having prolonged psychosocial effects on survivors. Sepsis disproportionately affects the very young (below 1 year of age) and older adults (above 50). Paramedics and EMRs/FRs must recognize the potential for sepsis and be prepared to provide care to protect a patient’s airway, ensure adequate oxygenation and ventilation, and maintain end-organ perfusion.
The National Early Warning Score-2 (NEWS2) is a screening tool designed to identify patients at high risk for deterioration from all causes, including sepsis. Paramedics and EMRs should routinely obtain a NEWS2 score on all patients and use these findings to help guide management, including conveyance methods, pre-arrival notification, and in-hospital advocacy.
Use appropriate personal protective equipment. For patients with suspected respiratory infections, paramedics and EMRs/FRs should use airborne droplet precautions.
Patients with chronic fluid-retention (e.g., congestive heart failure or chronic renal failure) may also be fluid depleted and require fluid resuscitation. Assess for signs of volume overload continually throughout patient contact and stop infusion if edema becomes apparent.
NEWS2 relies on several physiological parameters already measured by paramedics and EMRs in their practice:
Oxygen saturation scale 1 (for patients without COPD)
Oxygen saturation scale 2 (for patients with COPD)
Systolic blood pressure
Level of consciousness or new-onset confusion
Primary risk factors for sepsis include:
Age > 65
Current diagnosis of cancer
Hospitalization within the preceding 90 days
In isolation, malodorous urine is not associated with a urinary tract infection.
Elderly individuals with sepsis frequently do not present with a fever. Patients should be asked about antipyretic medications as these may mask a fever. In all patients, the absence of fever does not exclude sepsis. Hypothermia, where it is present, is an ominous sign in sepsis.
Paramedics and EMRs should consider the possibility of meningococcal septicemia and invasive group A streptococcus (necrotizing fasciitis).
National Early Warning Score-2
BC Emergency Health Services advocates the use of the National Early Warning Score (NEWS2) to identify patients at risk of sudden deterioration. NEWS2 scores should be obtained on all patients, and used to guide clinical decision-making, particularly in the areas of conveyance, clinical pathway selection, pre-arrival notification, ongoing monitoring, and emergency department advocacy. Note: SpO2 Scale 1 is for patients not diagnosed with COPD; SpO2 Scale 2 is for patients diagnosed with COPD.
NEWS2 is not intended to replace sound clinical judgment. Its purpose is to alert practitioners to the risk of sudden deterioration and to help identify those patients who require more aggressive monitoring, treatment, and advocacy. NEWS2 is particularly valuable in the context of infectious diseases and suspected sepsis.
First Responder (FR) Interventions
Position supine to improve blood pressure if not in respiratory distress