This test may help predict sepsis risk years in advance for heart patients

Researchers in the U.K. created a 'risk profile' to find heart patients who face the highest risk of developing sepsis, often years before they become ill, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found.

The researchers, from the University of Leeds, say they hope the tool will help physicians identify patients who may benefit from closer monitoring and help ensure these patients receive rapid treatment when they become ill.

The test could be part of a routine check already performed when patients see their physicians, said senior study author Richard Cubbon, PhD.

The researchers followed about 1,800 patients with chronic heart failure from 2006 to 2014 for an average of four years and gathered information on each patient at the start of the study.

During the study, 737 patients died, with 173 (23.5 percent) deaths caused by sepsis. The research team evaluated this data and found several distinct markers for a higher risk of sepsis death.

Blood samples from high-risk patients had lower levels of vitamin D and higher counts of platelets, or cells that help blood clot. High-risk patients were also older, more likely to have chronic lung disease and more likely to be male.

Using this data, the researchers developed the risk profile to use in flagging patients who have the highest risk of dying from sepsis.

These patients could receive counseling, closer monitoring by their physician and vaccines to prevent respiratory infections, the researchers said.

"This research should act as a wake-up call," said Jeremy Pearson, PhD, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. "Sepsis is a silent killer and it's even more deadly in people who have heart failure."

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