Importance of measuring lactate levels in children with sepsis
Evidence & Practice Previous     Next

Importance of measuring lactate levels in children with sepsis

Nisha Anil Registered nurse, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool NSW, Australia

Sepsis is a major public health problem as well as one of the leading causes of preventable death in children because of failure to recognise the early signs and symptoms and to resuscitate rapidly. Blood lactate levels are used to assess the severity of sepsis and the effectiveness of resuscitation.

Lactate levels are easily obtainable and should be checked in all patients admitted with suspected sepsis within six hours of presentation. The test should be repeated four and eight-hours post-diagnosis of sepsis. For the diagnosis of sepsis, patients’ clinical symptoms, along with the combined analysis of partial pressure of oxygen, carbon dioxide and lactate levels, should be used. A multitude of factors can cause elevated lactate levels and so clinicians should use elevated levels cautiously by considering all other aetiologies.

This article, which focuses on practice in Australia but makes reference to the UK, discusses the importance of measuring lactate levels in sepsis, the pathophysiology of lactate production, causes of elevated lactate levels, lactate measurement, nursing management of patients with elevated lactate levels, limitations of using lactate as a biomarker for diagnosing sepsis and implications for practice.

Nursing Children and Young People. 29, 8, 26-29. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2017.e924


Conflict of interest

None declared

Peer review

This article has been subject to open peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Write for us

For information about writing for RCNi journals, contact

For author guidelines, go to

Received: 12 March 2017

Accepted: 15 June 2017

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Try 1 month’s access for just £1 and get:

Your subscription package includes:
  • Full access to the website and the online archive
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student
Already subscribed? Log in

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