Specialty Sections From CHEST® Physician

We need more efforts to prevent sepsis readmissions


Critical Care Network

Sepsis/Shock Section

Sepsis remains the commonest diagnosis for hospital stays in the United States and the top hospital readmission diagnosis, with aggregate costs of $23.7 billion in 2013 (https://datatools.ahrq.gov/hcup-fast-stats; Kim H, et al. Front Public Health. 2022;10:882715; Torio C, Moore B. 2016. HCUP Statistical Brief #204).

Since 2013, the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) adopted pneumonia as a readmission measure, and in 2016, this measure included sepsis patients with pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia. For 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suppressed pneumonia as a readmission measure due to COVID-19’s significant impact (www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/AcuteInpatientPPS/Readmissions-Reduction-Program). Though sepsis is not a direct readmission measure, it could be one in the future. Studies found higher long-term mortality for patients with sepsis readmitted for recurrent sepsis (Pandolfi F, et al. Crit Care. 2022;26[1]:371; McNamara JF, et al. Int J Infect Dis. 2022;114:34).

A systematic review showed independent risk factors predictive of sepsis readmission: older age, male gender, African American and Asian ethnicities, higher baseline comorbidities, and discharge to a facility. In contrast, sepsis-specific risk factors were extended-spectrum beta-lactamase gram-negative bacterial infections, increased hospital length of stay during initial admission, and increased illness severity (Shankar-Hari M, et al. Intensive Care Med. 2020;46[4]:619; Amrollahi F, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2022;29[7]:1263; Gadre SK, et al. Chest. 2019;155[3]:483).

McNamara and colleagues found that patients with gram-negative bloodstream infections had higher readmission rates for sepsis during a 4-year follow-up and had a lower 5-year survival rates Int J Infect Dis. 2022;114:34). Hospitals can prevent readmissions by strengthening antimicrobial stewardship programs to ensure appropriate and adequate treatment of initial infections. Other predictive risk factors for readmission are lower socioeconomic status (Shankar-Hari M, et al. Intensive Care Med. 2020;46[4]:619), lack of health insurance, and delays seeking medical care due to lack of transportation (Amrollahi F, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2022;29[7]:1263).

Sepsis readmissions can be mitigated by predictive analytics, better access to health care, establishing post-discharge clinic follow-ups, transportation arrangements, and telemedicine. More research is needed to evaluate sepsis readmission prevention.

Shu Xian Lee, MD


Deepa Gotur, MD, FCCP


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