About the Pediatric Sepsis Program

Sepsis is a life-threatening response to an infection that causes organ failure. The mission of the Pediatric Sepsis Program (PSP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is to minimize the number of children who develop sepsis and to optimize early recognition and therapy.  Our vision, based on the rationale that sepsis is both preventable and treatable, is that every child with a severe infection is evaluated for sepsis and treated with the highest quality medical and surgical care to reduce—and eventually eliminate—morbidity and mortality caused by sepsis.

Through scientific research, clinical decision support, education, public awareness, and quality improvement projects, our multidisciplinary team works with the international medical and scientific communities to search for what causes sepsis, develop the best methods for early detection and resuscitation, and continuously test for more effective therapies to reverse the effects of sepsis.

As a leader in early recognition, treatment and follow-up care for infants, children and adolescents with sepsis, the PSP at CHOP is a central resource for doctors, scientists, nurses, pharmacists and other staff at Children’s Hospital, providing education to clinicians caring for children with sepsis, support for scientific investigation, and mentorship to professional trainees (medical students, residents and fellows) in sepsis-related research.

The Pediatric Sepsis Program at CHOP is supported by a Department of Pediatrics Chair’s Initiative award, the Divisions of Emergency Medicine and Critical Care, the Office of Clinical Quality Improvement, and investigator-initiated grants.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis occurs when the body develops an overwhelming response to an infection, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection. Sepsis impairs organ function, including the heart, brain, liver and kidneys, and can lead to organ failure and death. Children with sepsis are often critically ill, requiring emergency treatment and sometimes admission to a pediatric or neonatal intensive care unit. In infants, children and adolescents, severe sepsis and septic shock represent the most serious manifestations of the sepsis spectrum and are the focus of the Pediatric Sepsis Program. Severe sepsis and septic shock are a leading cause of death for children in the intensive care unit.

In the mid-1900s, over 90 percent of patients who developed sepsis died. With the development of targeted antibiotics and resuscitative therapies, such as intravenous fluids, medications to increase blood pressure, and supplemental oxygen, most patients who develop sepsis now survive. However, nationally, about 1 in 10 children with severe sepsis still die. Many survivors go on to have longer-term problems with attention, school work and physical activity, as well as a higher risk of recurrent infections and hospital readmission. At Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, clinicians and scientists within the Pediatric Sepsis Program are helping to lead the international medical and scientific communities in our search for improving early detection and resuscitation, and providing effective therapies for sepsis.

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