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This article is the author’s final published version in BMJ Open, Volume 14, 2024, Article number e077471.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2024 Author(s) (or their employer(s)).


INTRODUCTION: Sepsis affects 25.2 million children per year globally and causes 3.4 million deaths, with an annual cost of hospitalisation in the USA of US$7.3 billion. Despite being common, severe and expensive, therapies and outcomes from sepsis have not substantially changed in decades. Variable case definitions, lack of a reference standard for diagnosis and broad spectrum of disease hamper efforts to evaluate therapies that may improve sepsis outcomes. This landscape analysis of community-acquired childhood sepsis in Australia and New Zealand will characterise the burden of disease, including incidence, severity, outcomes and cost. Sepsis diagnostic criteria and risk stratification tools will be prospectively evaluated. Sepsis therapies, quality of care, parental awareness and understanding of sepsis and parent-reported outcome measures will be described. Understanding these aspects of sepsis care is fundamental for the design and conduct of interventional trials to improve childhood sepsis outcomes.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This prospective observational study will include children up to 18 years of age presenting to 12 emergency departments with suspected sepsis within the Paediatric Research in Emergency Departments International Collaborative network in Australia and New Zealand. Presenting characteristics, management and outcomes will be collected. These will include vital signs, serum biomarkers, clinician assessment of severity of disease, intravenous fluid administration for the first 24 hours of hospitalisation, organ support therapies delivered, antimicrobial use, microbiological diagnoses, hospital and intensive care unit length-of-stay, mortality censored at hospital discharge or 30 days from enrolment (whichever comes first) and parent-reported outcomes 90 days from enrolment. We will use these data to determine sepsis epidemiology based on existing and novel diagnostic criteria. We will also validate existing and novel sepsis risk stratification criteria, characterise antimicrobial stewardship, guideline adherence, cost and report parental awareness and understanding of sepsis and parent-reported outcome measures.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethics approval was received from the Royal Children's Hospital of Melbourne, Australia Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC/69948/RCHM-2021). This included incorporated informed consent for follow-up. The findings will be disseminated in a peer-reviewed journal and at academic conferences.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ACTRN12621000920897; Pre-results.

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