Just in time
Faster treatment saves
thousands of lives every year
BY LIZ KATYNSKI
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012
Septic shock is the leading cause of death
in intensive care units in the developed
world. But now, thanks to the work of Dr.
Anand Kumar, thousands of people every
year are surviving this condition, which is
caused by a loss of blood pressure due to
"We had the magic bullet, but we just
needed to use it correctly," says Kumar, an
associate professor in the Departments of
Medicine, Microbiology, Pharmacology and
Therapeutics at the University of Manitoba's
Faculty of Medicine. The "magic bullet" is
a reference to antibiotics administered to
patients in septic shock. In the normal course
of events, patients who go into septic shock
are stabilized and then given antibiotics to
knock out the infection.
In 2004, Kumar launched a study to
determine how long it took for patients in
septic shock to receive antibiotics. Physicians
told Kumar that it generally took between 60
to 90 minutes to deliver the antibiotics. But
upon reviewing the data, Kumar discovered
it generally took an average of six hours.
"We examined the impact of the speed
of delivery of antimicrobial therapy in
the treatment of septic shock," he says.
"Dropping the median time from six to three
hours increased the odds of survival from 38
per cent to 60 per cent."
As a result, protocols in Winnipeg and
around the world are being changed to
speed up delivery of antibiotics to patients
who experience septic shock. "We are now
saving 100 to 150 lives in Winnipeg each
year. That's great news," Kumar says, adding
that medical students are now taught about
the importance of quickly administering
antibiotics to patients in septic shock.
Studies suggest that reducing the time it
takes to deliver antimicrobials in cases of
septic shock can save tens of thousands of
lives across North America.
Kumar says his research was made
possible because of data collected by the
Winnipeg Health Region, which was one of
the first health jurisdictions to code septic
shock under its own designation, starting
in 1989. Other regions record it under the
condition that led to the infection.
The availability of this information, plus
a study of septic shock in the lab during
another project, prompted Kumar to look
into the effects of delays in providing
antibiotics to patients. "It's very cool," says
Kumar. "All doctors working in academic
medicine want to make a difference. We are
very excited to see people who would have
died going home to continue their lives."
Back to "Research for better health"
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the November / December 2012 issue of Wave