Definitions for pediatric sepsis were established in 2005 without data-driven criteria. It is unknown whether the more recent adult Sepsis-3 definitions meet the needs of providers caring for children. We aimed to explore the use and applicability of criteria to diagnose sepsis and septic shock in children across the world.


This is an international electronic survey of clinicians distributed across international and national societies representing pediatric intensive care, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and pediatric infectious diseases. Respondents stated their preferences on a 5-point Likert scale.


There were 2835 survey responses analyzed, of which 48% originated from upper-middle income countries, followed by high income countries (38%) and low or lower-middle income countries (14%). Abnormal vital signs, laboratory evidence of inflammation, and microbiologic diagnoses were the criteria most used for the diagnosis of “sepsis.” The 2005 consensus definitions were perceived to be the most useful for sepsis recognition, while Sepsis-3 definitions were stated as more useful for benchmarking, disease classification, enrollment into trials, and prognostication. The World Health Organization definitions were perceived as least useful across all domains. Seventy one percent of respondents agreed that the term sepsis should be restricted to children with infection-associated organ dysfunction.


Clinicians around the world apply a myriad of signs, symptoms, laboratory studies, and treatment factors when diagnosing sepsis. The concept of sepsis as infection with associated organ dysfunction is broadly supported. Currently available sepsis definitions fall short of the perceived needs. Future diagnostic algorithms should be pragmatic and sensitive to the clinical settings.

You do not currently have access to this content.