Scoring systems for the characterization of sepsis and associated outcomes

Natalie McLymont, Guy W. Glover


Sepsis is responsible for the utilisation of a significant proportion of healthcare resources and has high mortality rates. Early diagnosis and prompt interventions are associated with better outcomes but is impeded by a lack of diagnostic tools and the heterogeneous and enigmatic nature of sepsis. The recently updated definitions of sepsis have moved away from the centrality of inflammation and the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria which have been shown to be non-specific. Sepsis is now defined as a “life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection”. The Quick (q) Sequential (Sepsis-related) Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score is proposed as a surrogate for organ dysfunction and may act as a risk predictor for patients with known or suspected infection, as well as being a prompt for clinicians to consider the diagnosis. Early warning scores (EWS) are track and trigger physiological monitoring systems that have become integrated within many healthcare systems for the detection of acutely deteriorating patients. The recent study by Churpek and colleagues sought to compare qSOFA to more established alerting criteria in a population of patients with presumed infection, and compared the ability to predict death or unplanned intensive care unit (ICU) admission. This perspective paper discusses recent advances in the diagnostic criteria for sepsis and how qSOFA may fit into the pre-existing models of acute care and sepsis quality improvement.