How Common, Preventable Are Sepsis-Associated Deaths in Hospitals?

Bottom Line: This study estimates how common sepsis-related deaths are in hospitals and how preventable those deaths might be. In a retrospective study using medical record reviews of 568 patients who died in six U.S. hospitals or who were discharged to hospice in 2014 or 2015, sepsis was present in more than half (300) of the hospitalizations and directly caused death in more than one-third (198) of cases. Most sepsis-associated deaths occurred in medically complex patients with severe coexisting conditions and most deaths were considered unlikely to have been prevented through better hospital care. These findings suggest that further innovations in the prevention and care of underlying conditions may be necessary before major reduction in sepsis deaths can be achieved. The study was conducted in only six hospitals and may not generalize to all hospitals.

Authors: Chanu Rhee, M.D., M.P.H., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and coauthors