Here’s Why Roughly Half of All Hospital Deaths Could Be Related to Sepsis

February 15, 2019, 11:06 PM UTC

Sepsis is the leading cause of death to hospitalized patients, but to bring down the sepsis-related mortality rate, prevention and care of other major contributing factors would need to change significantly, according to new research published Friday in JAMA Open Network.

Sepsis is a life-threatening infection individuals can develop during hospitalizations, affecting roughly 1.7 million adults in the U.S. annually. Among those infected, sepsis may potentially contribute to more than a quarter of a million deaths. But it’s not truly known how pervasive sepsis is, which is why researchers undertook a study to assess the prevalence, common underlying causes, and preventability of sepsis.

The study researchers noted that prevention of sepsis requires some serious systemic overhauls if patient care is to be improved. They wrote, “Most of these deaths are unlikely to be preventable through better hospital-based care,” due to the fact that sepsis disproportionately impacts elderly people, as well as people with severe coexisting conditions and terminal diagnoses such as certain cancers.

“Our findings do not diminish the importance of trying to prevent as many sepsis-associated deaths as possible, but rather underscore that most fatalities occur in medically complex patients with severe comorbid conditions,” the study authors concluded. “Further innovations in the prevention and care of underlying conditions may be necessary before a major reduction in sepsis-associated deaths can be achieved.”