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

barriers also predisposes more patients to sepsis."

According to earlier research, 80% of patients with sepsis develop it outside the hospital, while only 20% develop it while in a hospital or nursing home. Although the incidence of sepsis is increasing, with more than 700,000 cases per year, the mortality appears to be decreasing, from 29% of cases in 1979 to 17.4% in 1999. Because of the increased incidence, however, more people continue to die each year.

Physicians have become much more adept at diagnosing sepsis, according to Dr. Martin, partly because of a consensus definition that includes criteria such as changes in temperature, heart rate, respiratory function, and white blood cell count. Sepsis is defined as being an initial infection plus at least two of these four additional criteria.

"This makes it much easier for physicians to walk to the bedside and identify patients with sepsis, including those at highest risk," Dr. Martin says. "If a patient has sepsis with organ failure, physicians need to be very aggressive with treatment.

"Not only do we need to treat sepsis promptly and aggressively, we also need to educate the entire physician community about how to recognize sepsis early or prevent sepsis in high-risk patients, We also need to examine how antibiotics, medical procedures, and an increase in immune-compromised patients and elderly patients represent increased risk for sepsis. A new understanding of sepsis could have a major impact on patients and healthcare resources," Dr. Martin emphasizes.


Contact: Holly Korschun
Emory University Health Sciences Center

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