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Although overall paediatric septic shock mortality is decreasing, refractory septic shock (RSS) is still associated with high mortality. A definition for RSS is urgently needed to facilitate earlier identification and treatment. We aim to establish a European society of paediatric and neonatal intensive care (ESPNIC) experts' definition of paediatric RSS.
We conducted a two-round Delphi study followed by an observational multicentre retrospective study. One hundred and fourteen paediatric intensivists answered a clinical case-based, two-round Delphi survey, identifying clinical items consistent with RSS. Multivariate analysis of these items in a development single-centre cohort (70 patients, 30 % mortality) facilitated development of RSS definitions based on either a bedside or computed severity score. Both scores were subsequently tested in a validation cohort (six centres, 424 patients, 11.6 % mortality).
From the Delphi process, the draft definition included evidence of myocardial dysfunction and high blood lactate levels despite high vasopressor treatment. When assessed in the development population, each item was independently associated with the need for extracorporeal life support (ECLS) or death. Resultant bedside and computed septic shock scores had high discriminative power against the need for ECLS or death, with areas under the receiver operating characteristics curve of 0.920 (95 % CI 0.89-0.94), and 0.956 (95 % CI 0.93-0.97), respectively. RSS defined by a bedside score equal to or higher than 2 and a computed score equal to or higher than 3.5 was associated with a significant increase in mortality.
This ESPNIC definition of RSS accurately identifies children with the most severe form of septic shock.
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