Challenges in developing a consensus definition of neonatal sepsis

Infection, Inflammation, Immunology and Immunisation (I4) section of the ESPR

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Sepsis remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the neonatal population, and at present, there is no unified definition of neonatal sepsis. Existing consensus sepsis definitions within paediatrics are not suited for use in the NICU and do not address sepsis in the premature population. Many neonatal research and surveillance networks have criteria for the definition of sepsis within their publications though these vary greatly and there is typically a heavy emphasis on microbiological culture. The concept of organ dysfunction as a diagnostic criterion for sepsis is rarely considered in neonatal literature, and it remains unclear how to most accurately screen neonates for organ dysfunction. Accurately defining and screening for sepsis is important for clinical management, health service design and future research. The progress made by the Sepsis-3 group provides a roadmap of how definitions and screening criteria may be developed. Similar initiatives in neonatology are likely to be more challenging and would need to account for the unique presentation of sepsis in term and premature neonates. The outputs of similar consensus work within neonatology should be twofold: a validated definition of neonatal sepsis and screening criteria to identify at-risk patients earlier in their clinical course. Impact: There is currently no consensus definition of neonatal sepsis and the definitions that are currently in use are varied.A consensus definition of neonatal sepsis would benefit clinicians, patients and researchers.Recent progress in adults with publication of Sepsis-3 provides guidance on how a consensus definition and screening criteria for sepsis could be produced in neonatology.We discuss common themes and potential shortcomings in sepsis definitions within neonatology.We highlight the need for a consensus definition of neonatal sepsis and the challenges that this task poses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-26
Number of pages13
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


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