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Presenting Symptoms in Sepsis: Is the Mnemonic “SEPSIS” Useful?

Authors Wattanapaiboon K, Banditlerdruk S, Vattanavanit V

Received 21 May 2020

Accepted for publication 24 June 2020

Published 8 July 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 2199—2204


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Suresh Antony

Kanokpit Wattanapaiboon,1 Sarach Banditlerdruk,1 Veerapong Vattanavanit2

1Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand; 2Critical Care Medicine Unit, Division of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand

Correspondence: Veerapong Vattanavanit
Critical Care Medicine Unit, Division of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Songkhla 90110, Thailand
Tel +66-84-8456228
Fax +66-74-429385

Background: The mnemonic “SEPSIS” (S = Slurred speech or confusion, E = Extreme shivering or muscle pain, fever, P = Passing no urine all day, S = Severe breathlessness, I = It feels like you are going to die, S = Skin mottled or discolored) has been developed by the World Sepsis Day committee, so as to raise public awareness of the symptomatic presentation of sepsis. However, this mnemonic has not been validated.
Methods: A retrospective, observational, single-center study was performed. All adult septic patients presenting at the emergency department of Songklanagarind Hospital from 2016 to 2019 were included and followed up until either hospital discharge or death.
Results: The study included 437 patients, comprising patients with sepsis (n = 250) and those with septic shock (n = 187). Patients presented with symptoms according to the mnemonic as follows: S = 97 (22.2%), E = 240 (54.9%), P = 18 (4.1%), S =181 (41.4%), I = 5 (1.1%), and S = 5 (1.1%). Sixty-five patients (14.9%) did not present with any sepsis-specific symptoms according to the mnemonic. Compared with patients who had at least one mnemonic symptom, a higher proportion of patients without mnemonic symptoms had underlying immunosuppression (24.6% vs 8.3%, P < 0.01) and were diagnosed with intraabdominal infection (38.5% vs 12.1%, P < 0.01). In a multivariable adjusted logistic regression model, vague-presenting symptoms were independently associated with in-hospital mortality (adjusted odds ratio 2.17, 95% confidence interval 1.30− 3.61, P = 0.03).
Conclusion: Two components of the mnemonic “SEPSIS” were rarely reported: it feels like you are going to die and skin mottled or discolored. Using the mnemonic might lead to missed diagnoses, especially in immunosuppression and intraabdominal infection. This mnemonic should be revised for the local context.

Keywords: sepsis, symptom, mnemonic

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