Monitoring of the physical exam in sepsis

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Monitoring of mental status and peripheral circulatory changes can be accomplished noninvasively in patients in the ICU. Emphasis on physical examination in conditions such as sepsis have gained increased attention as these evaluations can often serve as a surrogate marker for short-term treatment efficacy of therapeutic interventions. Sepsis associated encephalopathy and mental status changes correlate with worse prognosis in patients. Evaluation of peripheral circulation has been shown to be a convenient, easily accessible, and accurate marker for prognosis in patients with septic shock. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the main findings according to recent literature into the monitoring of physical examination changes in patients with sepsis.

Recent findings

Several recent studies have expanded our knowledge about the pathophysiology of mental status changes and the clinical assessment of peripheral circulation in patients with sepsis. Sepsis-associated encephalopathy is associated with an increased rate of morbidity and mortality in an intensive care setting. Increased capillary refill time (CRT) and persistent skin mottling are strongly predictive of mortality, whereas temperature gradients can reveal vasoconstriction and more severe organ dysfunction.

Summary

Monitoring of physical examination changes is a significant and critical intervention in patients with sepsis. Utilizing repeated neurologic evaluations, and assessing CRT, mottling score, and skin temperature gradients should be emphasized as important noninvasive diagnostic tools. The significance of these methods can be incorporated during the utilization of therapeutic strategies in resuscitation protocols in patients with sepsis.

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