Can sepsis kill patients months or years after they recover?

Sepsis is a serious mortality risk for patients who develop the infection. It also carries an increased risk of death for those patients months down the road, but is that because of sepsis itself, or preexisting health conditions? A new BMJ study suggests sepsis itself might play a role.

Researchers from Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan analyzed death rates for patients who survived for 30 days after discharge from sepsis hospitalization and found 40 percent of them died within two years. The rates of death were not explained by factors like age, demographics or conditions that pre-dated a sepsis diagnosis.

"This is an exciting finding because it suggests that a person's pre-existing health conditions do not explain the high rate of late death after sepsis. This means that the late deaths after sepsis may be more amenable to treatment than we previously thought," Hallie Prescott, MD, study author, said in a statement.

Compared to patients admitted to the hospital with non-sepsis infection, patients with sepsis had a 10 percent increase in late death after discharge. The findings suggest that late mortality following sepsis may be more amenable to medical intervention than was previously thought, the authors concluded.  

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