Septic shock and adequacy of early empiric antibiotics in the emergency department

Sarah K. Flaherty, Rachel L. Weber, Maureen Chase, Andrea F. Dugas, Amanda M. Graver, Justin D. Salciccioli, Michael N. Cocchi, Michael W. Donnino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background Antibiotic resistance is an increasing concern for Emergency Physicians. Objectives To examine whether empiric antibiotic therapy achieved appropriate antimicrobial coverage in emergency department (ED) septic shock patients and evaluate reasons for inadequate coverage. Methods Retrospective review was performed of all adult septic shock patients presenting to the ED of a tertiary care center from December 2007 to September 2008. Inclusion criteria were: 1) Suspected or confirmed infection; 2) ≥ 2 Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome criteria; 3) Treatment with one antimicrobial agent; 4) Hypotension requiring vasopressors. Patients were dichotomized by presentation from a community or health care setting. Results Eighty-five patients with septic shock were identified. The average age was 68 ± 15.8 years. Forty-seven (55.3%) patients presented from a health care setting. Pneumonia was the predominant clinically suspected infection (n = 38, 45%), followed by urinary tract (n = 16, 19%), intra-abdominal (n = 13, 15%), and other infections (n = 18, 21%). Thirty-nine patients (46%) had an organism identified by positive culture, of which initial empiric antibiotic therapy administered in the ED adequately covered the infectious organism in 35 (90%). The 4 patients who received inadequate therapy all had urinary tract infections (UTI) and were from a health care setting. Conclusion In this population of ED patients with septic shock, empiric antibiotic coverage was inadequate in a small group of uroseptic patients with recent health care exposure. Current guidelines for UTI treatment do not consider health care setting exposure. A larger, prospective study is needed to further define this risk category and determine optimal empiric antibiotic therapy for patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-607
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • antibiotics
  • critical care
  • nosocomial
  • sepsis
  • urinary tract infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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