CDC announces new guidelines for sepsis programs, treatment

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines to help hospitals create more effective sepsis management teams and improve patient survival rates.

The agency’s seven “Sepsis Core Elements,” announced Thursday, come as sepsis cases continue to rise and industry leaders call for better surveillance systems, diagnostic tools and education surrounding the life-threatening condition. 

Related: AI can reduce sepsis-related deaths, study shows

Sepsis is a life-threatening complication caused by the body’s extreme response to infection, causing damage to organ systems and potentially death. Each year, around 1.7 million adults in the U.S. develop sepsis and 350,000 of them die during their hospitalization or are discharged to hospice care, according to the CDC.

While 73% of hospitals report having sepsis teams, only half say team leaders are given sufficient time to manage the programs, according to a recent CDC survey of 5,221 hospitals that are part of the National Healthcare Safety Network. Additionally, only 55% of hospitals report they use antibiotic stewardship programs to monitor antibiotic and antifungal use in sepsis care. 

The survey also found 10% of hospitals had no standardized process to assist with rapid sepsis identification and 35% reported facility leadership had not given resources to support sepsis efforts such as training or data analysis support.

The CDC guidelines instruct hospitals to report all sepsis treatment outcomes to relevant agencies and quality organizations, appoint a leader responsible for sepsis initiatives and program goals, and implement processes to improve sepsis identification and management. Hospitals are also encouraged to provide ongoing sepsis education to clinicians and ensure sepsis teams have adequate staff, finances and technology.

Sepsis recognition and management increasingly has become an area of focus for health systems and regulatory agencies as more organizations advocate for the importance of evidence-based protocols in reducing organ failure, length of stay, care costs and mortality.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it will incorporate the SEP-1 quality measure—which establishes a treatment protocol for timely sepsis intervention and treatment—into its value-based purchasing program starting in fiscal year 2026. 

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