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.e924Correspondence
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Received: 12 March 2017
Accepted: 15 June 2017
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