Sepsis patients in overcrowded ERs wait up to 1 hour for treatment, study shows

Patients admitted to overcrowded emergency rooms will likely face a wait for sepsis treatment, according to a study presented at the 2017 American Thoracic Society International Conference on May 21.

Researchers examined the medical records of patients sent to an intensive care unit after being seen in the emergency departments of two community hospitals and two tertiary referral centers in Utah. The patients, who showed signs of sepsis infection on arrival at the ERs, were admitted to the ICU between July 2013 and December 2015. Researchers included 945 patients in the study.

The researchers defined overcrowding as admitting more registered ER patients than beds available.

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On average, sepsis patients admitted to an overcrowded ER waited an extra 47 minutes for antibiotics. They were also three times less likely to start antibiotics within three hours, as compared to patients admitted to an uncrowded ER.

Each one-hour delay in antibiotic delivery can increase a sepsis patient's mortality risk by 7 percent to 10 percent, according to study lead author Ithan Peltan, MD, of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Medical Center and University of Utah School of Medicine.

Of the 945 patients, 14 percent were admitted when the ER was already overcrowded. In 83 percent of sepsis cases in an uncrowded ER, patients received antibiotics within three hours. However, when the ER was overcrowded, patients received antibiotics within three hours in 72 percent of the cases.

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