Importance Improving emergency care of pediatric sepsis is a public health priority, but optimal early diagnostic approaches are unclear. Measurement of lactate levels is associated with improved outcomes in adult septic shock, but pediatric guidelines do not endorse its use, in part because the association between early lactate levels and mortality is unknown in pediatric sepsis.
Objective To determine whether the initial serum lactate level is associated with 30-day mortality in children with suspected sepsis.
Results Of the 1299 patients included in the analysis (753 boys [58.0%] and 546 girls [42.0%], 899 (69.2%) had chronic medical conditions and 367 (28.3%) had acute organ dysfunction. Thirty-day mortality occurred in 5 of 103 patients (4.8%) with lactate levels greater than 36 mg/dL and 20 of 1196 patients (1.7%) with lactate levels of 36 mg/dL or less. Initial lactate levels of greater than 36 mg/dL were significantly associated with 30-day mortality in unadjusted (odds ratio, 3.00; 95% CI, 1.10–8.17) and adjusted (odds ratio, 3.26; 95% CI, 1.16- 9.16) analyses. The sensitivity of lactate levels greater than 36 mg/dL for 30-day mortality was 20.0% (95% CI, 8.9%-39.1%), and specificity was 92.3% (90.7%-93.7%).
Conclusions and Relevance In children treated for sepsis in the emergency department, lactate levels greater than 36 mg/dL were associated with mortality but had a low sensitivity. Measurement of lactate levels may have utility in early risk stratification of pediatricsepsis.