Management of sepsis in out-of-hours primary care: a retrospective study of patients admitted to the intensive care unit

Feike J. Loots*, Marleen Smits, Carlijn van Steensel, Paul Giesen, Rogier M. Hopstaken, Arthur R. H. van Zanten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives Timely recognition and treatment of sepsis is essential to reduce mortality and morbidity. Acutely ill patients often consult a general practitioner (GP) as the first healthcare provider. During out-of-hours, GP cooperatives deliver this care in the Netherlands. The aim of this study is to explore the role of these GP cooperatives in the care for patients with sepsis.

Design Retrospective study of patient records from both the hospital and the GP cooperative.

Setting An intensive care unit (ICU) of a general hospital in the Netherlands, and the colocated GP cooperative serving 260 000 inhabitants.

Participants We used data from 263 patients who were admitted to the ICU due to community-acquired sepsis between January 2011 and December 2015.

Main outcome measures Contact with the GP cooperative within 72hours prior to hospital admission, type of contact, delay from the contact until hospital arrival, GP diagnosis, initial vital signs and laboratory values, and hospital mortality.

Results Of 263 patients admitted to the ICU, 127 (48.3%) had prior GP cooperative contacts. These contacts concerned home visits (59.1%), clinic consultations (18.1%), direct ambulance deployment (12.6%) or telephone advice (10.2%). Patients assessed by a GP were referred in 64% after the first contact. The median delay to hospital arrival was 1.7hours. The GP had not suspected an infection in 43% of the patients. In this group, the in-hospital mortality rate was significantly higher compared with patients with suspected infections (41.9% vs 17.6%). Mortality difference remained significant after correction for confounders.

Conclusion GP cooperatives play an important role in prehospital management of sepsis and recognition of sepsis in this setting proved difficult. Efforts to improve management of sepsis in out-of-hours primary care should not be limited to patients with a suspected infection, but also include severely ill patients without clear signs of infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number022832
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • sepsis
  • diagnosis
  • after hours care
  • primary care
  • general practice

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