Sepsis is a complex syndrome that is difficult to define, diagnose and treat. Is a characterized by a whole-body inflammatory state caused by severe infection. Septicemia is a related medical term referring to the presence of pathogenic organisms in the bloodstream, leading to sepsis. Severe sepsis is accompanied by single or multiple organ dysfunction or failure often leading to death.
Since some symptoms of sepsis -such as fever, rapid pulse and respiratory difficulty- are very general, diagnosis is difficult.
- Over 18 million cases of severe sepsis worldwide each year (1)
- Up to 135,000 European and 215,000 American deaths each year (1, 6)
- Kills approximately 1,400 people worldwide every day (4)
- Each year sepsis costs €7.6 billion in Europe and €17.4 billion in the US (1, 4)
Worryingly, the number of severe sepsis cases is set to grow at a rate of 1.5% per year (1). This increase is mainly due to the growing use of invasive procedures and increasing numbers of elderly and high-risk individuals such as cancer patients.
Sepsis is a major cause of mortality throughout the world, killing about 1.400 people every day (4). The real figure may even be much higher since deaths are often attributed to complications from cancer or pneumonia, and not from sepsis.
Death is common among sepsis patients, with around 28–50% of patients dying within the first month of diagnosis (2, 3, 5, 7, 8).
The treatment of sepsis places a significant burden on healthcare resources, accounting for 40% of total Intensive Care Units expenditure (4). Each year the cost of treating sepsis patients increases and is currently as high as €7.6 billion in Europe (4) and €17.4 billion in the USA (1). Early diagnosis and correct treatment will not only save lives but save costs aswell.
What to do?
Treatment is more effective, and severe sepsis avoided, if appropriate therapy is used early. Once diagnosed, the first-line treatment is to eliminate the underlying infection with antibiotics. To determine what antibiotic has to be used the pathogen(s) have to be identified earlier. This identification currently takes 2-3 days. When one keeps in mind that once a patient is in septic shock, survival rates can drop 7.6% for every hour that effective antibiotic therapy is delayed (9).
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References (feel free to use the comment section to add current information)
- Angus DC et al. Crit Care Med 2001; 29: 1303–10.
- Rivers E et al. N Engl J Med 2001; 345: 1368–77.
- Natanson C et al. Crit Care Med 1998; 26: 1927–31.
- Bone RC et al. Chest 1992; 101: 1644–55.
- Bernard GR et al. N Engl J Med 2001; 344: 699–709.
- Davies A et al. A European estimate of the burden of disease in ICU. In preparation.
- Briegel J et al. Clin Invest 1994; 72: 782–7.
- Bollaert PE et al. Crit Care Med 1998; 26: 645–50.
- Kumar, A et al. Crit Care Med. 2006;34:1593