Sepsis is Killing Us

From the Canadian Institute for Health Information 2009 Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio (HSMR) Public Release.

The good news: Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratios have fallen all over the country. The bad news: sepsis is still a huge killer of patients, with staggering mortality rates, and is killing more, by percentage, than heart attacks or strokes. From the report:

  • There were 30,587 sepsis hospitalizations in Canada (outside Quebec). In comparison, 30,542 new stroke events and 49,220 new heart attacks were observed in Canada (outside Quebec).
  • At 30.5%, the crude mortality rate for sepsis was high; 9,320 patients with sepsis died (in 2008–2009). In comparison, the crude mortality rate was about 18% for stroke and 9.1% for heart attacks (in 2007–2008).
  • There were no significant changes in either sepsis hospitalizations or sepsis mortality rates over the five years from 2004–2005 to 2008–2009.
  • The median hospital length of stay for sepsis patients was nine days longer than for patients admitted to hospital with other conditions.
  • Sepsis was associated with more hospital resource use, with 45.1% of all sepsis patients admitted to the intensive care unit during their stay.
  • For patients with sepsis, factors contributing to a higher chance of dying were being older, being female, having pre-admission comorbidities, having sepsis occurring after admission to hospital and having severe sepsis.

Early identification and treatment of sepsis has been shown to significantly reduce mortality — yet another float in the Parade of the Blindingly Obvious. Implementation of tools (see here, for example) in hospitals allowing clinicians, including nurses, to identify actual and potential sepsis is probably key to lowing rates of sepsis. And the remedy for sepsis acquired inside hospitals? Do I really need to tell you? Hey you, wash your hands!

[Courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Health]


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  1. #1 by atyourcervix on Wednesday 16 December 2009 - 0924

    Don’t forget too – the abundant number of family members that come to visit. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people walk out of public bathrooms and NOT WASH THEIR HANDS!!! If they don’t wash up after using the bathroom, what makes us think that they will actually wash up before touching their loved one??

  2. #2 by torontoemerg on Wednesday 16 December 2009 - 0936

    You know it sister. You should see family members coming out of isolation rooms, gowned, gloved and masked, after being clearly and repeated told NOT to wander the halls in contaminated garb.

    Makes me want to get out my firehouse….

  3. #3 by Cece on Sunday 20 December 2009 - 1437

    I saw it from the other side. My husband had major surgery at Johns Hopkins, no less. The care was what you would expect from a world-class hospital right out of surgery. But once they transferred him to the next wing, i-yi-yi. Help. I was stunned beyond words. With a teaching RN standing there, a nursing student dressing the wounds, we had to ask the student to use gloves while attending the wound. I kid you not. The hand-washing dispenser was on the wall at the entry and was not used by medical personnel at anytime.

    All I can say is it is no wonder. Another thing I can say is based on that experience, stay out of the hospital, no matter what. I am sorry to have to say that. I was traumatized and I was not the patient.

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