Sepsis causes more readmissions than COPD, heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia

Sepsis — a complication caused by the body's immune response to life-threatening infections — accounts for more readmissions than any of the four conditions CMS tracks for reimbursement purposes, according to a new research letter published in JAMA.

To assess hospital performance, CMS tracks 30-day readmissions following hospitalizations for heart attack, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. While these conditions occur regularly and account for a substantial amount of readmissions, sepsis-related readmissions are more costly and occur more frequently.

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To determine the burden of sepsis readmissions on the healthcare system, researchers analyzed data from the 2013 Nationwide Readmissions Database, which documents acute care hospitalizations from 21 states and is representative of inpatient use for 49 percent of the U.S. population. The analysis linked sepsis to 12.2 percent of readmissions, followed by 6.7 percent for heart failure, 5 percent for pneumonia, 4.6 percent for COPD and 1.3 percent for heart attack.

Researchers estimated the average cost per sepsis readmission to be $10,070. For pneumonia, the rate was $9,533, followed by $9,424 for heart attack, $9,051 for heart failure and $8,417 for COPD.

"This really puts in perspective how important sepsis is," said lead author Florian B. Mayr, MD, faculty member in University of Pittsburgh's department of critical care medicine. "If we, as a nation, place such high emphasis on reducing readmissions for the other four conditions, then we really need to look for opportunities to improve outcomes for sepsis, which has a higher rate of readmission than heart failure. People who survive an initial episode of sepsis often don't do well. They return to the hospital frequently, accrue new health conditions and have significantly elevated death rates."

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