Conference Coverage

Previously healthy patients hospitalized for sepsis show increased mortality



– Although severe, community-acquired sepsis in previously healthy U.S. adults is relatively uncommon, it occurs often enough to strike about 40,000 people annually, and when previously healthy people are hospitalized for severe sepsis, their rate of in-hospital mortality was double the rate in people with one or more comorbidities who have severe, community-acquired sepsis, based on a review of almost 7 million Americans hospitalized for sepsis.

The findings “underscore the importance of improving public awareness of sepsis and emphasizing early sepsis recognition and treatment in all patients,” including those without comorbidities, Chanu Rhee, MD, said at an annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases. He hypothesized that the increased sepsis mortality among previously healthy patients may have stemmed from factors such as delayed sepsis recognition resulting in hospitalization at a more advanced stage and less aggressive management.

In addition, “the findings provide context for high-profile reports about sepsis death in previously healthy people,” said Dr. Rhee, an infectious diseases and critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Rhee and associates found that, among patients hospitalized with what the researchers defined as “community-acquired” sepsis, 3% were judged previously healthy by having no identified major or minor comorbidity or pregnancy at the time of hospitalization, a percentage that – while small – still translates into roughly 40,000 such cases annually in the United States. That helps explain why every so often a headline appears about a famous person who died suddenly and unexpectedly from sepsis, he noted.

The study used data collected on hospitalized U.S. patients in the Cerner Health Facts, HCA Healthcare, and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation databases, which included about 6.7 million people total including 337,983 identified as having community-acquired sepsis, defined as patients who met the criteria for adult sepsis advanced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within 2 days of their hospital admission. The researchers looked further into the hospital records of these patients and divided them into patients with one or more major comorbidities (96% of the cohort), patients who were pregnant or had a “minor” comorbidity such as a lipid disorder, benign neoplasm, or obesity (1% of the study group), or those with no chronic comorbidity (3%; the subgroup the researchers deemed previously healthy).

In a multivariate analysis that adjusted for patients’ age, sex, race, infection site, and illness severity at the time of hospital admission the researchers found that the rate of in-hospital death among the previously healthy patients was exactly twice the rate of those who had at least one major chronic comorbidity, Dr. Rhee reported. Differences in the treatment received by the previously-healthy patients or in their medical status compared with patients with a major comorbidity suggested that the previously health patients were sicker. They had a higher rate of mechanical ventilation, 30%, compared with about 18% for those with a comorbidity; a higher rate of acute kidney injury, about 43% in those previously healthy and 28% in those with a comorbidity; and a higher percentage had an elevated lactate level, about 41% among the previously healthy patients and about 22% among those with a comorbidity.

SOURCE: Alrawashdeh M et al. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2019 Oct 23;6. Abstract 891.

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