Sepsis on the increase in U.S., according to Emory University and CDC study

The incidence of sepsis a severe, whole-body immune response to infection is increasing by an average of 16% a year in the U.S., according to research by investigators at Emory University School of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During the 20-year period from 1979 to 1999, the incidence of sepsis increased by more than 329%, from 78 to 259 cases per 100,000 people. Sepsis is a major public health problem, consuming more than $15 billion in healthcare costs annually in the U.S.

Emory pulmonologist and intensivist Greg Martin, M.D., in collaboration with Marc Moss, M.D., of Emory and David Mannino, M.D., of the CDC presented results of their analysis of data from the U.S. National Hospital Discharge Survey at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Atlanta on Tuesday. The study is the most comprehensive survey of sepsis epidemiology to date because it includes statistics from the entire country over a long period of time.

The scientists used selected groupings of clinical disease classification codes to identify patients with sepsis. The incidence of sepsis increased in both children and adults during the 20-year period. Males, African-Americans, and other non-Caucasians had the highest rates of hospitalization due to sepsis, although the incidence in females and Caucasians increased more rapidly. The study also indicated an increase in gram-positive infections, which by 1999 represented the majority of cases of sepsis (56%), while gram-negative infections, anaerobic, fungal and viral infections were less common. Although relatively uncommon, the greatest increase was in sepsis cases with fungal infections as their source.

Although sepsis begins with an identifiable infection, when patients become septic their immune systems are intensely activated, setting off a cascade of events that may result in uncontrolled inflammation throughout the body. Sepsis also activates the coagulation system by

Contact: Holly Korschun
Emory University Health Sciences Center

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