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Pitt Study Reveals Aggressive Testing, Treatment Can Significantly Decrease Child Sepsis Deaths

Janice Carr
CDC via AP
A strain of the Escherichia coli bacteria. E. coli is one of the germs that can cause sepsis.

More vigorous testing and treatment could significantly decrease the likelihood of children getting sepsis, a complication of an infection that can sometimes be life-threatening, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. 

The study found robust sepsis procedures required in New York hospitals shrunk the likelihood of a child dying of the disease by 40 percent. In 2013, the state adopted Rory's Regulations, requiring New York hospitals to perform a series of tests and treatments for any child suspected of sepsis. 

Sepsis kills more than 10 percent of children diagnosed with the disease while hospitalized. The body's response to an infection goes out of control, leading to organ damage or failure. But experts say the disease is significantly less likely to be fatal if caught early.

Many states, including Pennsylvania, have no sepsis protocol on the books, according to Pitt Professor Christopher Seymour. 

"Some hospitals and clinicians may think that having a protocol for something like sepsis, that's quite common, may infringe upon their autonomy, or their ability to make individualized decisions for patients," he said.

Seymour said there's debate over how to implement protocols that guarantee timely care for all patients, not just those with sepsis.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said hospital regulations are being updated to include language on treating sepsis. However, any changes must go through the state's regulatory process before finalization.