SAN ANTONIO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) Training EMS personnel in early recognition of sepsis improved some aspects of care within the acute care chain, but did not reduce mortality, according to results of a randomized trial.

Emergency medical service (EMS) personnel were able to recognize sepsis more quickly, obtain blood cultures, and give antibiotics after the training, reported investigator Prabath Nanayakkara, MD, PhD, FRCP , at the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s Critical Care Congress.

However, the hypothesis that this training would lead to increased survival was not met, noted Dr. Nanayakkara, of the acute medicine section of the department of internal medicine at VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam.

At 28 days, 120 patients (8%) in the prehospital antibiotics group had died, compared with 93 patients (8%) in the usual care group (relative risk, 0.95; 95% confidence interval, 0.74-1.24), according to the study’s results that were simultaneously published online in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The intervention group received antibiotics a median of 26 minutes prior to emergency department (ED) arrival. In the usual care group, median time to antibiotics after ED arrival was 70 minutes, versus 93 minutes prior to the sepsis recognition training (P = .142), the report further says.

“We do not advise prehospital antibiotics at the moment for patients with suspected sepsis,” Dr. Nanayakkara said, during his presentation at the conference.

Other countries might see different results, he cautioned.

In the Netherlands, ambulances reach the emergency scene within 15 minutes 93% of the time, and the average time from dispatch call to ED arrival is 40 minutes, Dr. Nanayakkara noted in the report.

“In part, due to the relatively short response times in the Netherlands, we don’t know if there are other countries with longer response times that would have other results, and whether they should use antibiotics in their ambulances,” Dr. Nanayakkara said in his presentation.

The study was the first-ever prospective randomized, controlled open-label trial to compare early prehospital antibiotics with standard care.

Before the study was started, EMS personnel at 10 large regional ambulance services serving 34 secondary or tertiary hospitals were trained in recognizing sepsis, the report says.

A total of 2,672 patients with suspected sepsis were included in the intention-to-treat analysis, of whom 1,535 were randomized to receive prehospital antibiotics and 1,137 to usual EMS care, which consisted of fluid resuscitation and supplementary oxygen.

The primary end point of the study was all-cause mortality at 28 days.

The negative mortality results of this trial are “not surprising,” given that the trial’s inclusion criteria allowed individuals with suspected infection but without organ dysfunction, said Jean-Louis Vincent, MD, PhD , of Erasmus Hospital, Brussels, in a related editorial appearing in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine (2018 Jan. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600[17]30446-0 ).

Recent consensus definitions of sepsis recognize that sepsis is the association of an infection with some degree of organ dysfunction, according to Dr. Vincent.

“After this initial experience, I believe that a randomized, controlled trial could be done to assess the potential benefit of early antibiotic administration in the ambulance for patients with organ dysfunction associated with infection,” Dr. Vincent wrote in his editorial.

Dr. Nanayakkara and his coauthors declared no competing interests related to their study.

SOURCE: Alam N et al. Lancet Respir Med. 2018 Jan;6(1):40-50 .