News / Halifax

Treatment in time saves lives: Halifax hospital launches sepsis campaign

The IWK is using a new Sepsis PedsPac that aims to give staff the tools to rapidly diagnosis sepsis symptoms.

The IWK hospital.

Metro file / Halifax Staff

The IWK hospital.

A new project at the IWK aims to save kid’s lives.

“It’s really important for people in the healthcare world to have early recognition of sepsis, so that we can save lives,” said Dr. Shannon MacPhee, the chief of pediatric emergency medicine at the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre.

Sepsis is one of the leading causes of death in infants, but with symptoms as common as as a fever and elevated heart and respiratory rates, “the trouble is that a lot of other conditions early on can have a lot of overlapping symptoms with it.”

A new program introduced at the IWK this week, – called the Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids (TREKK) Sepsis PedsPac – aims to give staff the tools to rapidly diagnosis sepsis symptoms and then mobilize the medical team to treat the patient.

So what exactly is sepsis?

To fight infections our immune systems release chemicals into our bloodstream; sometimes, however, these chemicals can trigger an inflammatory response throughout our bodies – this is called sepsis.

In severe cases, sepsis-related inflammation can escalate into multiple organ damage, and at worst septic shock, in which blood pressure drops dramatically, sometimes fatally.

While MacPhee said the IWK does not have reliable data on the number of sepsis cases the hospital sees, she adds that they do see it “relatively frequently.”

To offer an idea of the scale of the problem, she points to statistics coming out of the United States, where there is an average of 95,000 episodes of severe sepsis annually in children and youth.  

Early diagnosis and treatment, usually with antibiotics and intravenous fluids, is critical.

To this end, the TREKK Sepsis PedsPac, launched Monday at the IWK, introduces new training and standardized procedures for sepsis diagnosis and treatment. This starts right from the triage nurses, which are the point of entry for patients, right through to the rest of the healthcare team in the emergency department.  

“We know that if we can catch sepsis early we’ve got really good treatments and we can improve kids outcomes,” says MacPhee. “When we don’t catch onto it early, this can be fatal, it can leave kids with long lasting deficits that the need to carry for the rest of their lives.”

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