To determine if differences in patient characteristics, treatments, and outcomes exist between children with sepsis who arrive by emergency medical services (EMS) versus their own mode of transport (self-transport).
Retrospective cohort study of patients who presented to the Emergency Department (ED) of two large children’s hospitals and treated for sepsis from November 2013 to June 2017. Presentation, ED treatment, and outcomes, primarily time to first bolus and first parental antibiotic, were compared between those transported via EMS versus patients who were self-transported.
Of the 1813 children treated in the ED for sepsis, 1452 were self-transported and 361 were transported via EMS. The EMS group were more frequently male, of black race, and publicly insured than the self-transport group. The EMS group was more likely to have a critical triage category, receive initial care in the resuscitation suite (51.9 vs. 22%), have hypotension at ED presentation (14.4 vs. 5.4%), lactate >2.0 mmol/L (60.6 vs. 40.8%), vasoactive agents initiated in the ED (8.9 vs. 4.9%), and to be intubated in the ED (14.4 vs. 2.8%). The median time to first IV fluid bolus was faster in the EMS group (36 vs. 57 min). Using Cox LASSO to adjust for potential covariates, time to fluids remained faster for the EMS group (HR 1.26, 95% CI 1.12, 1.42). Time to antibiotics, ICU LOS, 3- or 30-day mortality rates did not differ, yet median hospital LOS was significantly longer in those transported by EMS versus self-transported (6.5 vs. 5.3 days).
Children with sepsis transported by EMS are a sicker population of children than those self-transported on arrival and had longer hospital stays. EMS transport was associated with earlier in-hospital fluid resuscitation but no difference in time to first antibiotic. Improved prehospital recognition and care is needed to promote adherence to both prehospital and hospital-based sepsis resuscitation benchmarks.

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