Background: Early recognition and treatment of sepsis is crucial to prevent detrimental outcomes. General practitioners (GPs) are often the first healthcare providers to encounter seriously ill patients. The aim of this study is to assess the value of clinical information and additional tests to develop a clinical prediction rule to support early diagnosis and management of sepsis by GPs.
Methods: We will perform a diagnostic study in the setting of out-of-hours home visits in four GP cooperatives in the Netherlands. Acutely ill adult patients suspected of a serious infection will be screened for eligibility by the GP. The following candidate predictors will be prospectively recorded: (1) age, (2) body temperature, (3) systolic blood pressure, (4) heart rate, (5) respiratory rate, (6) peripheral oxygen saturation, (7) mental status, (8) history of rigors, and (9) rate of progression. After clinical assessment by the GP, blood samples will be collected in all patients to measure C-reactive protein, lactate, and procalcitonin. All patients will receive care as usual. The primary outcome is the presence or absence of sepsis within 72 h after inclusion, according to an expert panel. The need for hospital treatment for any indication will be assessed by the expert panel as a secondary outcome. Multivariable logistic regression will be used to design an optimal prediction model first and subsequently derive a simplified clinical prediction rule that enhances feasibility of using the model in daily clinical practice. Bootstrapping will be performed for internal validation of both the optimal model and simplified prediction rule. Performance of both models will be compared to existing clinical prediction rules for sepsis.
Discussion: This study will enable us to develop a clinical prediction rule for the recognition of sepsis in a high-risk primary care setting to aid in the decision which patients have to be immediately referred to a hospital and who can be safely treated at home. As clinical signs and blood samples will be obtained prospectively, near-complete data will be available for analyses. External validation will be needed before implementation in routine care and to determine in which pre-hospital settings care can be improved using the prediction rule.
Trial registration: The study is registered in the Netherlands Trial Registry (registration number NTR7026).