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Study: Blood infections play role in up to half of hospital deaths

Monday June 16, 2014
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Sepsis occurs in about 10% of hospital patients in the U.S. but contribute to as many as half of all hospital deaths, according to a new study presented during the American Thoracic Society’s annual conference in San Diego May 16-21. Sepsis affects as many as 750,000 hospitalized patients in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many studies have examined the incidence and mortality of patients diagnosed with sepsis in the U.S. over time, but the study authors say that so far the impact of sepsis on overall hospital mortality has been poorly understood. “Our study was designed to quantify the national impact of sepsis on hospitalized patients and to highlight the importance of sepsis care on mortality at a population level,” study lead author Vincent Liu, MD, MS, of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, said in a news release.

For their study, the researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of 6.5 million hospital discharge records derived from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample in 2010. The NIS is a publicly-available, all-payer inpatient database containing data from 100% of hospital discharges from a stratified sample of community hospitals. Using diagnosis and procedure codes, the researchers identified hospital admissions and deaths of patients with sepsis and estimated the percentage of total hospital charges associated with sepsis hospitalizations.

“We were surprised to find that as many as one in two patients dying in U.S. hospitals had sepsis,” Liu said.

More specifically, the researchers found that sepsis patients had a hospital mortality rate of 10.4% compared to a rate of 1.1% in patients who did not have sepsis. They also found that of all hospital deaths nationally, as many as 52% were among patients diagnosed with sepsis. Sepsis hospitalizations also contributed to 21.2% of all hospital charges which, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, adds up to about $24 billion annually.

“The results of our study suggest that that improved care for sepsis patients of all severity levels and in all hospital settings could result in many future lives saved,” Liu said.

While sepsis is present in less than 1 in every 12 U.S. hospitalizations, it contributes to nearly 1 in 2 hospitals deaths, according to the release.


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