Severe sepsis is a major public health concern and a burden on the healthcare system. Despite improvements in efforts to control the source of infection and increased recognition by healthcare providers of patients with the disease, the mortality rate remains unacceptably high, from 30% to 50%. The systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria are used as diagnostic indicators of sepsis when they occur in patients with known or suspected infection. The outcome of a patient with severe sepsis is often related to the occurrence of sepsis-induced multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome appears to result from a cascade of organism-related factors, inflammatory mediators, endothelial injury, disturbed hemostasis, and microcirculatory abnormalities. In patients with severe sepsis, derangements of inflammation and coagulation are tightly linked. Although numerous clinical trials focused on interventions in one or the other of the inflammatory and coagulation systems failed to show reduced mortality due to sepsis, a member of a new class of drugs called “cogins” was effective. In its active form, protein C has anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, and profibrinolytic properties that can reduce organ injury associated with severe sepsis. A recombinant form of activated protein C, drotrecogin alfa (activated), significantly reduces 28-day mortality due to all causes in patients with severe sepsis and has an acceptable safety profile. This review provides an overview of severe sepsis, highlighting recent advances in treatment of the disease and the role of critical care nurses.

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