Guidelines for adults presenting to the emergency department (ED) with suspected sepsis recommend protocols and bundles that promote rapid and potentially intensive treatment, but give little consideration of how patient characteristics, such as age, functional status and comorbidities, might influence management. This study aimed to describe the characteristics, management and outcomes of adults attending the ED with suspected sepsis, and specifically describe the prevalence of comorbidities, functional impairment and escalations of care.
We undertook a single-centre retrospective observational study involving medical record review of a random sample of adults admitted to an ED between February 2018 and January 2019 with suspected sepsis. Descriptive statistics were used with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for key proportions.
We included 509 patients (median age 74 years), of whom 49.3% met the Sepsis-3 criteria. Less than half of the patients were living at home independently (42.5%) or could walk independently (41.5%), 19.3% were care home residents and 89.2% of patients had one or more comorbidity. 22% had a pre-existing do not attempt resuscitation order. 6.5% were referred to intensive care, and 34.3% of the 13.2% who died in-hospital had an escalation plan explicitly documented.
Adults with suspected sepsis have substantial functional limitations, comorbidities and treatment directives that should be considered in guidelines, especially recommendations for escalation of care.

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