Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?
This patient has a diagnosis of septic shock due to pneumonia. In all patients presenting to the Emergency Department, the initial assessment should involve the “ABCs” (assessment of Airway, Breathing, and Circulation). The patient is given supplemental oxygen for her hypoxemia with an improved oxygen saturation from 89% to 95%. Performing endotracheal intubation (Choice A) is too aggressive at this time as the patient is improving with non-invasive oxygenation techniques. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid sepsis guidelines recommend a 30 mL/kg of isotonic crystalloid fluid bolus in patients with sepsis. However, there is limited data to support this recommendation, as some patients may benefit from less or more fluids than 30 mL/kg. The question stem indicates that an appropriate bolus of fluids has been given, so providing more IV fluids (Choice B) is not the best course of action. The use of passive leg raising or bedside ultrasonography to assess for Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) size may help a clinician discern if more or less fluids are required. For example, visualizing a flat, collapsible IVC on ultrasound indicates additional fluids may be helpful. An increase in blood pressure after a patient’s legs are raised above the level of the heart (“passive leg raise”) also supports the use of additional IV fluids. Giving acetaminophen (Choice D) will help reduce the patient’s fever and improve patient comfort. However, initiating vasopressor therapy (Choice C) is the more appropriate next course of action. Vasopressors (i.e. norepinephrine, epinephrine) are generally recommended after IV fluid boluses if a patient is persistently hypotensive with a MAP less than 65mmHg. Vasopressors help to maintain cerebral and organ perfusion in states of shock. They should be titrated to a dose that maintains a MAP of 65mmHg or above. Correct Answer: C
Nicks BA, Gaillard JP. Approach to Nontraumatic Shock. “Chapter 12: Approach to Nontraumatic Shock”. In: Tintinalli JE, Ma O, Yealy DM, Meckler GD, Stapczynski J, Cline DM, Thomas SH. eds. Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, 9th ed. McGraw-Hill.