Sepsis 2019: What surgeons need to know

Vanessa P. Ho, Haytham Kaafarani, Rishi Rattan, Nicholas Namias, Heather Evans, Tanya L. Zakrison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The definition of sepsis continues to be as dynamic as the management strategies used to treat this. Sepsis-3 has replaced the earlier systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS)-based diagnoses with the rapid Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score assisting in predicting overall prognosis with regards to mortality. Surgeons have an important role in ensuring adequate source control while recognizing the threat of carbapenem-resistance in gram-negative organisms. Rapid diagnostic tests are being used increasingly for the early identification of multi-drug-resistant organisms (MDROs), with a key emphasis on the multidisciplinary alert of results. Novel, higher generation antibiotic agents have been developed for resistance in ESKCAPE (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) organisms while surgeons have an important role in the prevention of spread. The Study to Optimize Peritoneal Infection Therapy (STOP-IT) trial has challenged the previous paradigm of length of antibiotic treatment whereas biomarkers such as procalcitonin are playing a prominent role in individualizing therapy. Several novel therapies for refractory septic shock, while still investigational, are gaining prominence rapidly (such as vitamin C) whereas others await further clinical trials. Management strategies presented as care bundles continue to be updated by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, yet still remain controversial in its global adoption. We have broadened our temporal and epidemiologic perspective of sepsis by understanding it both as an acute, time-sensitive, life-threatening illness to a chronic condition that increases the risk of mortality up to five years post-discharge. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and bedside scoring systems can assist the clinician in predicting post-operative sepsis. The public health role of the surgeon is key. This includes collaboration and multi-disciplinary antibiotic stewardship at a hospital level. It also requires controlling pharmaceutical sales and the unregulated dispensing of antibiotic agents globally through policy initiatives to control emerging resistance through prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalSurgical infections
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • MDROs
  • procalcitonin
  • sepsis
  • source control
  • vitamin C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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