Sepsis mortality rates on the decline

Severe sepsis mortality rates have significantly declined over the past two decades, according to a new study published in Critical Care Medicine.

The researchers, led by Allan J. Walkey, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University Medical Center (BUMC) and attending physician, pulmonary, critical care and allergy medicine, at Boston Medical Center, studied data from severe sepsis or septic shock patients enrolled in 36 multicenter clinical trials. The data indicated that in-hospital sepsis mortality rates fell from 47 percent between 1991 and 1995 to 29 percent between 2006 and 2009.

"The mortality trends identified in clinical trial participants appear similar to those identified using administrative data and support the use of administrative data to monitor mortality trends in patients with severe sepsis," the study abstract states.

During this time period, no new pharmacological treatments for the condition were developed, according to a statement from BUMC, indicating that fine-tuning existing treatments can improve sepsis patient outcomes.

"Even without new drugs or technologies to treat severe sepsis, our study suggests that improving the ways in which we recognize and deliver care to patients with severe sepsis could decrease mortality rates by a magnitude similar to new effective drug," Walkey said in the statement.

Previous studies on severe sepsis mortality rates have suggested several potential solutions, such as increasing the number of critical care physicians or increasing targeted delivery of intravenous fluids, but it was unclear whether these strategies could account for decreases in the sepsis mortality rate, according to the statement.

A 2012 nurse-led program, in which patients were screened for sepsis and given evidence-based post-diagnosis treatment, reduced mortality rates by half at nine California hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The program also yielded a 56 percent return on investment.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the statement

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