Screening for sepsis: SIRS or qSOFA? A literature review
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Screening for sepsis: SIRS or qSOFA? A literature review

Benjamin Feist Senior staff nurse, emergency department, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, London, England

In 2016, definitions of sepsis and septic shock were updated to focus on organ dysfunction rather than systemic inflammatory response as the identifying trait.

This article aims to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and quick Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) in detecting sepsis in emergency department (ED) patients. A systematic search of the literature was undertaken using four databases. A total of 307 articles was identified. After the selection process, 13 articles met the inclusion criteria for the review.

Five themes emerged from the meta-analysis: SIRS; qSOFA; timeliness and simplicity; sensitivity versus specificity; and adding lacate. SIRS offered users greater sensitivity when assessing for sepsis. However, qSOFA is a simple bedside tool with greater specificity, which does not require any blood test results. The author created a new qSOFA screening tool, which incorporated the use of point-of-care serum lactate measurement. He found that qSOFA outperforms SIRS as an ED sepsis screening tool with its strengths of efficacy, efficiency and ease. It was also found to differentiate better between uncomplicated infection and sepsis, which can commonly cause trigger fatigue in EDs.

Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2019.e1939

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Feist B (2019) Screening for sepsis: SIRS or qSOFA? A literature review. Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2019.e1939

Published online: 15 October 2019

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now