In my patient with sepsis, is administration of proper antibiotics within an hour compared to 1-3 hours associated with better outcome?

The weight of the evidence based on observational studies suggests that the earlier the antibiotics are administered even within the first 3 hrs of the diagnosis of sepsis,  the better the patient outcome.

A 2017 study analyzing data from 37 studies (primarily observational) involving ~20,000 patients with severe sepsis and/or shock found a 10% increase in hospital mortality for every 1 hr delay in initiation of antibiotic therapy1. Two multicenter studies (1 in Pennsylvania2 and another in California3) and a New York State data base study involving patients with severe sepsis or septic shock4 similarly reported decreased survival with each 1- hr delay in antibiotic therapy. Another study of patients with severe sepsis found that each hour delay in first antibiotic dose administration was associated with an 8% increased risk of progression to shock5.

Despite the emphasis on the timing of the first dose of antibiotics, let’s not forget that the second dose of antibiotics should also be given on time in sepsis; a >25% delay is associated with increased mortality, length of stay and requirement for mechanical ventilation6.

So, yes, antibiotics should be given within 3 hours of diagnosis of sepsis, but within an hour followed by a timely second dose is even better!

Final Pearl: Did you know that sepsis is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US and contributes to 1 in every 2 to 3 hospital deaths7?



  1. Kalil AC, Johnson DW, Lisco SJ, et al. Early goal-directed therapy for sepsis: a novel solution for discordant survival outcomes in clinical trials. Crit Care Med 2017;45:607-14.
  2. Seymour CW, Kahn JM, Martin-Gill, et al. Delays from first medical contact to antibiotic administration for sepsis. Crit Care Med 2017;45:759-65.
  3. Liu VX, Fielding-Singh V, Greene JD, et al. Th timing of early antibiotics and hospital mortality in sepsis. Am J Respir Crit care Med 2017; 196;858-63.
  4. Seymour CW, Gesten F, Prescott HC, et al. Time to treatment and mortality during mandated emergency care for sepsis. N Engl J Med 2017;376:2235-44.
  5. Whiles BB, Deis AS, Simpson SQ. Increased time to initial antimicrobial administration is associated with progression to septic shock in severe sepsis patients. Crit Care Med 2017; 45:623-29.
  6. Leisman D, Huang V, Zhou Q, et al. Delayed second dose antibiotics for patients admitted from the emergency department with sepsis: prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes. Crit Care Med 2017;45:956-65.


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In my patient with sepsis, is administration of proper antibiotics within an hour compared to 1-3 hours associated with better outcome?

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