Sepsis (peds)

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  • Tachycardia is typically most predominant, hypotension is a late and ominous sign
  • Neonatal Sepsis
    • Early onset
      • First few days of life
      • Fulminant, associated with maternal or perinatal risk factors
      • Septic shock and neutropenia are more common
    • Late onset
      • Occurs after 1wk of age
      • Gradual
      • Meningitis more likely
    • Consider if feeding disturbance, rash, lethargy, irritability, seizure, apnea, tachypnea, grunting, vomiting, poor PO, gastric distention, diarrhea

Clinical Features

Shock: Warm vs Cold Shock

Warm Shock Cold Shock
Peripheries Warm, Flushed Mottled, Cold, Clammy
Cap Refill <2 sec >2 sec
Pulse Bounding Weak, Thready
BP Compensated Hypotension
HR Tachy Tachy or Brady
Pulse Pressure Widen Narrow

Differential Diagnosis

Sick Neonate


Pediatric fever



  • CBC, CMP, arterial lactate, CRP
  • Blood glucose
  • Urinalysis/urine culture
  • CXR
  • CSF
  • Blood cultures

SIRS Criteria in Peds

Requires > or equal to 2 of 4 requirements, with abnormal temperature or WBC required

  • Temperature >100.4 or <96.8
  • Age specific tachycardia or bradycardia <10th % for age <1 year
  • RR >2 SD above the norm
  • WBC elevated or depressed, based on age, or >10% bands

Severe Sepsis

  • Cardiovascular organ dysfunction
  • Respiratory distress


  • CNS dysfunction - GCS <11 or >3 loss from baseline
  • Platelets <80 or >50% decrease from baseline
  • Creatinine >2x upper limit of normal/baseline
  • Total bilirubin >4 or ALT >2x normal

Septic Shock

  • Hypotension<5th % for age, or SBP <2 SD below normal for age


  • Need for vasoactive drugs to maintain BP


  • Metabolic acidosis base deficit >5
  • Arterial lactate >2x normal
  • UOP <0.5 mL/kg/hr
  • Capillary refill >5 sec
  • Core to peripheral temperature gap >3 degrees C
  • DESPITE IVF resuscitation >40mL/kg in 1 hour


Initial assessment

  • Circulation
    • 1 min to attain IV access
    • If unable to get IV in 1 min, consider IO access
    • 60ml/kg IVF over the first hour
    • Consider vasopressors if not fluid responsive
    • Consider steroids if not fluid responsive
  • Airway
  • Breathing
    • CPAP can buy time for fluid resus prior intubation
  • Glucose
    • Ensure euglycemia

Golden Hour Goals of Resuscitation

  • Cap refill <2 sec
  • Normal BP
  • Normal pulses, similar central and peripheral
  • Warm extremities
  • UOP >1 mL/kg/hr
  • Normal mental status


  • Compared to adults, pediatric sepsis patients have normal lactate ore often
  • Controversial but surviving sepsis campaign no longer recommends trending lactate in pediatric patients[2]




Treatment will differ by local protocols




  • If vasopressors needed for septic shock, follow recommendations:
    • Normotensive shock with impaired perfusion: dopamine
    • Warm shock (vasodilated with poor perfusion or low BP): norepinephrine
    • Cold shock (vasoconstricted with poor perfusion or low BP): epinephrine
  • Consider epinephrine and perhaps norepinephrine over dopamine as a 1st line vasopressor[3]
    • Dopamine may be associated with increased mortality in pediatrics, which has been demonstrated in adult literature as well[4]
    • RTC trial in 2015 from Brazil, without other larger RTCs or multi-center trials to corroborate information


  • Admit

See Also


  1. Brousseau T, Sharieff GQ. Newborn emergencies: the first 30 days of life. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2006 Feb;53(1):69-84, vi.
  2. Dellinger RP, Levy MM, Rhodes A, et al. Surviving Sepsis Campaign: International Guidelines for Management of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock, 2012. Intensive Care Med 2013; 39: 165-228.
  3. Ventura AM, Shieh HH, Bousso A, Goes PF, Fernandes IC, de Souza DC, et al. Double-Blind Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial of Dopamine Versus Epinephrineas First-Line Vasoactive Drugs in Pediatric Septic Shock. Crit Care Med 2015;43:2292-302.
  4. Marik PE. Dopamine increases mortality in pediatric septic shock. Journal of Pediatrics. January 2016, Volume 168, Pages 253–256.

Tintinalli "Pediatric Sepsis" published in EM Resident 2013 40(4) , adapted from Goldstein, et al. Pediatr Crit Care Med 2005; 6:2-8.