A serial clinical examination approach to screen late preterm and term neonates at risk for early onset sepsis has been shown to be effective in large academic centers, resulting in reductions in laboratory testing and antibiotic use. The implementation of this approach in a community hospital setting has not been reported. Our objective was to adapt a clinical examination approach to our community hospital, aiming to reduce antibiotic exposure and laboratory testing.
At a community hospital with a level III NICU and >4500 deliveries annually, the pathway to evaluate neonates ≥35 weeks at risk for early onset sepsis was revised to focus on clinical examination. Well-appearing neonates regardless of perinatal risk factor were admitted to the mother baby unit with serial vital signs and clinical examinations performed by a nurse. Neonates symptomatic at birth or who became symptomatic received laboratory evaluation and/or antibiotic treatment. Antibiotic use, laboratory testing, and culture results were evaluated for the 14 months before and 19 months after implementation.
After implementation of the revised pathway, antibiotic use decreased from 6.7% (n = 314/4694) to 2.6% (n = 153/5937; P < .001). Measurement of C-reactive protein decreased from 13.3% (n = 626/4694) to 5.3% (n = 312/5937; P < .001). No cases of culture-positive sepsis occurred, and no neonate was readmitted within 30 days from birth with a positive blood culture.
A screening approach for early onset sepsis focused on clinical examination was successfully implemented at a community hospital setting resulting in reduction of antibiotic use and laboratory testing without adverse outcomes.