Code Sepsis

Because of the prevalence, seriousness, and treatability of sepsis, UNC Hospitals has launched a Sepsis initiative that aims to implement reliable screening for early detection of sepsis, educate multidisciplinary teams in evidence-based therapies, and standardize tools and treatment bundles for our specific patient populations.

Background

Most patients and their families have never heard of sepsis, a condition that kills more people every year than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS combined. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection injures its own tissues. The results can be devastating: death, cognitive damage, and deterioration in physical functioning.

In recent years, health-care providers have become increasingly familiar with the seriousness of sepsis. As sepsis rates continue to rise, health-care facilities have started seeking new ways to detect the condition early and to respond rapidly to prevent more serious conditions such as severe sepsis and septic shock. Studies show that when health-care providers promptly recognize sepsis and treat it by immediately administering antibiotics and fluids, sepsis survivorship increases by 50%. Although sepsis most often occurs in the elderly, the young, and those with chronic diseases such as cancer or liver disease, sepsis can affect perfectly healthy people of all ages. Every year, in fact, more than 1.6 million Americans develop sepsis during hospitalization, and nearly a quarter-million of those die from sepsis-related complications. A majority of sepsis survivors who are discharged are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of leaving.

Because of the prevalence, seriousness, and treatability of sepsis, UNC Hospitals has launched a Sepsis initiative that aims to implement reliable screening for early detection of sepsis, educate multidisciplinary teams in evidence-based therapies, and standardize tools and treatment bundles for our specific patient populations.

The primary outcome measure for this initiative is a goal decrease in raw mortality of 10% by June 2016 when compared to a baseline rate from 2013. The important information gathered throughout this site helps our health-care providers better understand sepsis, the current progress of the initiative, and access to the tools and training materials that are being tested or implemented as part of the initiative.

Who does sepsis strike?

Treating the septic patient is a race against time. With each passing hour, the untreated sepsis patient’s mortality rate rises by more than 7%.

Although sepsis can occur in healthy children, high-risk patients include:

  • Bone Marrow Transplant
  • Solid Organ Transplant
  • Malignancy
  • Central Line/PICC/Port
  • Other Immunocompromise
  • Complex Urogenital Anatomy/Repair
  • Asplenia (including Sickle Cell Disease)
  • Chronic Steroid Dependence (asthma, autoimmune disease)
  • Severe Neurologic Impairment or technology dependence

Non-UNC Resource Links

The following sepsis information and videos may be useful resources as you educate and train staff on how to identify Sepsis cases: 

Rory Staunton was a young boy from Queens, New York, whose death from sepsis created a nationwide movement to address the issue of childhood sepsis and its treatment through The Rory Staunton Foundation, which focuses on education and outreach aimed at faster diagnosis and effective treatment of sepsis, particularly in children. View this video about Rory:

Adult Sepsis Training

Measurements are being conducted and will be updated on this page as tools become available. The items below are working drafts currently undergoing pilot testing:

Adult Screening Tools 

Adult Treatment Tools
Training Materials

Sepsis in the News

Coverage of sepsis has picked up in the media as the public has become more aware of the dangers of sepsis and health-care facilities have begun to implement measures to combat sepsis. Below you'll find news coverage of sepsis.

Survivor Stories

From Sepsis to Med School

Medical student Hillary Spangler's journey to the UNC School of Medicine began at age 10, when she came down with what her parents thought was the flu. Symptoms persisted, and before long it was clear that Hillary wasn't getting any better. After receiving care in Asheboro, she was transferred to North Carolina Children's Hospital, where she was diagnosed with sepsis. She credits her care team with saving her life and believes that her life was spared so that she could one day give back.  

Sepsis Survivor

Five years ago, around Thanksgiving, Carol Fowler Durham, a nurse educator at the UNC School of Nursing, nearly died from septic shock. Today, she shares her experiences with audiences around the country and serves as an important weapon for UNC Medical Center’s sepsis reduction initiative, Code Sepsis.
 

Carol and Stephen with their Golden Retrievers on the Riverwalk in Hillsborough. Carol often expresses her thanks to the nurses and physicians at UNC Medical Center who helped to save her life. Photo by Max Englund/UNC Health Care.

FAQs

Does a patient have to score a 5+ on the MEWS sheet for you to call a rapid response?
NO! You can always call the rapid response team when worried about a patient. The MEWS score is a tool to help identify patients in distress but should never replace nurse’s intuition. Relying on a MEWS score may provide additional evidence in cases where care teams are unsure of whether or not to call the rapid response team, but always remember CALL EARLY AND CALL OFTEN.

Who should I contact if I have questions about the sepsis program?
If you have any questions about the sepsis program, please email .

Who are the Code Sepsis contacts across the UNC Health Care system?