Better hospital care cannot prevent most sepsis deaths, study finds

Sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals, but improved hospital care alone may not be enough to prevent the deadly condition, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

For the study, researchers reviewed medical records for 568 adults admitted to six academic and community hospitals between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2015. Patients either died in the hospital or were discharged to hospice care. Researchers rated the preventability of each sepsis-related death using a six-point scale.

Four study findings:

1. Sepsis was involved in 52.8 percent of hospitalizations and deemed an immediate cause of death in 34.9 percent of cases.

2. The most common underlying causes of death among sepsis patients were solid cancer (21 percent), chronic heart disease (15.3 percent), hematologic cancer (10.3 percent), dementia (9.7 percent) and chronic lung disease (9 percent).

3. Inadequate hospital care, such as delayed antibiotics, was evident in 22.7 percent of the 300 sepsis-associated deaths researchers identified.

4. However, only 11 sepsis-associated deaths were identified as "definitely" or "moderately preventable." Researchers labeled another 25 sepsis deaths as "possibly preventable."

"Further innovations in the prevention and care of underlying conditions may be necessary before a major reduction in sepsis-associated deaths can be achieved," researchers concluded.

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