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Researchers Identify U.S. ‘Hotspots’ for Infection and Sepsis-Related Mortality

First map of its kind reveals key areas for targeted interventions (May 15)

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have created the first U.S. map that pinpoints “hotspots” for infection and severe sepsis related-deaths — with notable clusters located in the Midwest, in mid-Atlantic states, and in the South. The research is a critical first step in helping to determine which areas of the country require vital public health resources to fight these deadly diseases, according to the investigators.

The new research was presented May 15 at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Infection-related deaths are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S., affecting over 1 million people a year, and costing $17 billion annually,” said lead author David Gaieski, MD. “And while our understanding of the causes of infection-related death rates has improved, we are still struggling to prevent these diseases and to identify individuals who are most susceptible. We need to be able to pinpoint the geographic distribution of infection-related death rates in order to further study how and why these infections are happening in these areas and the best methods to prevent these deaths.”

The researchers collected U.S. county death data from the 2010 Multiple Cause of Death data files (compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics) and combined this information with 2010 Area Resource File demographic data to obtain a comprehensive view of national variations. The authors note that previous research had only been able to identify potential trends on a state level.

Infection-related deaths were identified using ICD-10 primary cause-of-death codes for infection and severe sepsis. “Hotspots” were defined as regions where the infection death rate was significantly higher than the national mean and in surrounding counties.

The analysis revealed four hotspots: two regions that had three times the national mean of infection-related deaths, located across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic, and two regions that had four times the national death rate from severe sepsis, located in the South and mid-Atlantic.

In addition to these hotspots, the research team identified one “coolspot cluster” — an area that had disproportionately low rates of deaths caused by these infections. This cluster consisted of 157 counties located across the Southwest and Mountain states.

Source: Perelman School of Medicine; May 15, 2013.

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