WEDNESDAY, May 24, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- A new regulation requires New York state hospitals to follow a protocol to rapidly diagnosis and treat the potentially fatal infection known as sepsis, and research suggests it's saving lives.
The mandate was implemented after the death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton from undiagnosed sepsis in 2012. After the boy died, "Rory's Regulations" was passed in New York in 2013.
The protocol includes a blood culture to determine infection, a measure of blood lactate to determine tissue stress, and to give antibiotics within three hours of diagnosis.
It was the first regulation of its kind in the United States. However, medical experts have been divided on whether Rory's Regulations actually saves lives.
Sepsis, a life-threatening and sometimes rapid complication of infection, is the leading cause of death of hospital patients in the United States. At least 1.5 million sepsis cases occur nationwide each year. More than 1 in 5 patients don't survive.
"There is considerable controversy about how rapidly sepsis must be treated," said study author Dr. Christopher Seymour, an assistant professor in the departments of critical care medicine and emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Seymour and his colleagues reviewed data on nearly 50,000 patients at 149 hospitals in New York state. They found that 83 percent of the hospitals completed the protocol within the required three hours. The overall average completion time was 1.3 hours.
The odds of a patient dying increased 4 percent for every hour it took to complete the protocol, the study found.
"Some question the benefit of rapid treatment with protocols, saying they can have unintended side effects and be a distraction in busy emergency departments. After reviewing the data, we can finally say that faster is better when it comes to sepsis care," Seymour said in a university news release.
The study was presented Sunday at the annual meeting of American Thoracic Society, in Washington, D.C. It was also published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sepsis.