Tag Archives: sepsis

A Tertiary Care Transfer

On December 18, 2009, “Simon Jones” called 9-1-1 and summoned emergency medical services (EMS) to his residence after developing a significant difficulty in breathing over the last few days. Mr. Jones is an elderly male who lives alone after his wife passed away three years ago. His two adult children live out of state. As EMS arrived, they found Mr. Jones to be in moderate distress with difficulty breathing, a low-grade fever, pale and cool skin, and general complaints of weakness. Mr. Jones stated a significant past medical history, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Jones was treated by EMS with intravenous fluids, provided a breathing treatment, and transported to the local community hospital’s emergency department (ED).

Upon arrival at the local hospital, Mr. Jones was registered as a patient during turn-over from EMS to the nurse and attending physician who initially prescribed antibiotics and continual oxygen by nasal cannula. Within an hour, Mr. Jones spiked a high fever, became severely short of breath, and his blood pressure dropped precipitously indicating systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), or sepsis. The attending physician quickly ordered IV fluids run wide open with vasoactive medications added to support the patient’s blood pressure. Mr. Jones was unable to breathe effectively, however, and required intubation and was subsequently placed on a ventilator. The attending physician consulted with the University Hospital “One Call” physician who recommended transferring Mr. Jones to the intensive care unit (ICU) at University Hospital. A critical care transport (CCT) unit, staffed by two critical care paramedics and an emergency medical technician driver, was called for the transfer.

Mr. Jones was transferred to University Hospital without issue. Upon arrival, the intensivist accepted patient care from the CCT crew and began formulating a team to care for Mr. Jones, specifically mindful of his complicating medical history. Mr. Jones still had a low blood pressure and required ventilatory support, but his core temperature began dropping below normal. After a few days of using medication to attempt to correct the infection and hemodynamics (blood pressure, et al.), the patient developed acute renal failure (ARF). Mr. Jones, however, did not develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which was a concern from being on the ventilator with SIRS. Mr. Jones received continuous bedside hemodialysis for added kidney support.

After eight more days in the ICU, Mr. Jones’s hemodynamics began to self-regulate, and he seemed to be improving quite well. After three more days, Mr. Jones’ kidney function began to improve and hemodialysis was discontinued. Four days later, Mr. Jones was extubated, removed from the ventilator, and transferred to a medical/surgical bed. After a short stay, Mr. Jones was discharged to a skilled nursing rehabilitation center for improvement of his activities of daily living (ADLs). Mr. Jones soon returned home with no lasting effects from the medical confinement. He continues to follow up with his primary care physician.

Flawed Conclusions in Literature Review

For this week’s discussion, I have chosen to analyze an article (Sakr et al., 2006) that attempts to outline the efficacy and potential dangers of certain drugs used to treat shock. As a critical care paramedic, the discussion surrounding this article can provide insight to choosing alternative therapies when caring for my patients, but it is important for me to understand the potential biases and limitations of such a study that could lead to flawed conclusions (Gluud, 2006).

Sakr et al. (2006) collected data on ICU admissions over a two week period to further understand how dopamine effects mortality and morbidity when administered in response to hemodynamic compromise. Also, other administered vasoactive drugs were included in the analysis whether administered concomitantly with dopamine or instead of dopamine. The researchers did not distinguish between etiologies except to delineate between septic shock and non-septic shock. Patients who presented with shock or suffered a shock state within the first 24 hours of admission were included in the analysis. Patients admitted to the ICU mainly for 24 hour surgical observation where not included.

Shock is defined as “a state of inadequate cellular sustenance associated with inadequate or inappropriate tissue perfusion resulting in abnormal cellular metabolism” (Hillman & Bishop, 2004, p. 121). There are many etiologies of shock, including sepsis, anaphylactic, neurogenic, hypovolemic, cardiogenic, and others, which respond differently to various therapies. This confounder creates an information bias, as this variable is not identified in the data collection and cannot be scrutinized. Simply identifying the etiology of each shock state would limit this bias. The researchers, however, acknowledge this limitation and others.

Another confounding variables is the time constraint of the data. In regards to septic shock, this variable becomes evident. Many pathogens spread predictively during certain times of the year. The concomitant treatment of these infections could predispose patients to suffer a prolonged state of shock (in cases where the pathogen might not be immediately recognized) or provide for an ideal treatment pathway when the pathogen and the antibiotic regimen are fully understood and effective. This selection bias could be controlled by choosing patients who present throughout the year.

As Gluud (2006) points out:

When intervention effects are moderate or small, the human processing of data, unsystematic data collection, and the human capacity to overcome illnesses spontaneously limit the value of uncontrolled observations. Experimental models are essential for estimation of toxicity and pathophysiology.
(p. 494)


Gluud, L. L. (2006). Bias in Clinical Intervention Research. American Journal of Epidemiology, 163(6), 493–501. doi:10.1093/aje/kwj069

Hillman, K. & Bishop, G. (2004). Clinical Intensive Care and Acute Medicine. West Nyack, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.

Sakr, Y., Reinhart, K., Vincent, J., Sprung, C. L., Moreno, R., Ranieri, V. M., De Backer, D., & Payen, D. (2006). Does Dopamine Administration in Shock Influence Outcome? Results of the Sepsis Occurrence in Acutely Ill Patients (SOAP) Study. Critical Care Medicine, 34(3), 589-597. doi:10.1097/01.CCM.0000201896.45809.E3