OBJECTIVES: Early recognition and treatment are critical to improving sepsis outcomes. We sought to identify the frequency and types of encounters that patients have with the healthcare system in the week prior to a sepsis hospitalization.

DATA SOURCES: PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library.

STUDY SELECTION: Observational cohort studies of patients hospitalized with sepsis or septic shock that were assessed for an outpatient or emergency department encounter with the healthcare system in the week prior to hospital admission.

DATA EXTRACTION: The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with a healthcare encounter in the time period assessed (up to 1 week) prior to a hospitalization with sepsis.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Six retrospective observational studies encompassing 6,785,728 sepsis admissions were included for evaluation, ranging from a 263-patient single-center cohort to a large database evaluating 6,731,827 sepsis admissions. The average (unweighted) proportion of patients having an encounter with the healthcare system in the week prior to a sepsis hospitalization was 32.7% and ranged from 10.3% to 52.9%. These encounters commonly involved presentation or potential symptoms of infectious diseases, antibiotic prescriptions, and appeared to increase in frequency closer to a sepsis hospitalization admission. No consistent factors were identified that distinguished a healthcare encounter as more or less likely to precede a sepsis hospitalization in the subsequent week.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients that present to the hospital with sepsis are frequently evaluated in the healthcare system in the week prior to admission. Further research is necessary to understand if these encounters offer earlier opportunities for intervention to prevent the transition from infection to sepsis, whether they merely reflect the comorbidities of sepsis patients with a high baseline rate of healthcare encounters, or the declining trajectory of a patient's overall health in response to infection.

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Published in Critical Care Explorations, v. 4, issue 2, e0635.

Copyright © 2022 The Authors

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

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