BACKGROUND: Use of sepsis-criteria in hospital settings is effective in realizing early recognition, adequate treatment and reduction of sepsis-associated morbidity and mortality. Whether general practitioners (GPs) use these diagnostic criteria is unknown.
OBJECTIVE: To gauge the knowledge and use of various diagnostic criteria. To determine which parameters GPs associate with an increased likelihood of sepsis.
METHODS: Two thousand five hundred and sixty GPs were invited and 229 agreed to participate in a survey, reached out to through e-mail and WhatsApp groups. The survey consisted of two parts: the first part aimed to obtain information about the GP, training and knowledge about sepsis recognition, and the second part tested specific knowledge using six realistic cases.
RESULTS: Two hundred and six questionnaires, representing a response rate of 8.1%, were eligible for analysis. Gut feeling (98.1%) was the most used diagnostic method, while systemic inflammatory response syndrome (37.9%), quick Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) (7.8%) and UK Sepsis Trust criteria (UKSTc) (1.5%) were used by the minority of the GPs. Few of the responding GPs had heard of either the qSOFA (27.7%) or the UKSTc (11.7%). Recognition of sepsis varied greatly between GPs. GPs most strongly associated the individual signs of the qSOFA (mental status, systolic blood pressure, capillary refill time and respiratory rate) with diagnosing sepsis in the test cases.
CONCLUSIONS: GPs mostly use gut feeling to diagnose sepsis and are frequently not familiar with the 'sepsis-criteria' used in hospital settings, although clinical reasoning was mostly in line with the qSOFA score. In order to improve sepsis recognition in primary care, GPs should be educated in the use of available screening tools.