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What Hospitals Can Do to Tackle Threat of Deadly Sepsis

Report calls for better treatment, awareness, research

To tackle the ongoing threat of sepsis, which contributes to as many as 50% of all U.S. hospital deaths, the medical community must change the way it responds to this life-threatening condition, according to a report published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Sepsis “is both one of the best known yet most poorly understood medical disorders,” and is most commonly defined as a severe infection associated with organ dysfunction, say researchers led by Dr. Jonathan Cohen of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom. Although previous research indicates that outcomes have improved for patients with sepsis, mortality remains high, and the condition has been stubbornly resistant to efforts to develop new treatments.

“The number of people dying from sepsis every year –– perhaps as many as six million worldwide –– is shocking, and yet research into new treatments for the condition seems to have stalled,” Cohen told Science Daily. “Researchers, clinicians, and policymakers need to radically rethink the way we are researching and diagnosing this devastating condition.”

To answer this call, Cohen and his colleagues recommend that the medical community take the following actions:

  • Improve training of frontline clinical staff as well as develop public awareness campaigns about the condition
  • Improve access to timely, aggressive, and high-quality supportive-care interventions
  • Support patient groups and encourage academics to improve their understanding of the physical and psychological effects of sepsis, and develop new methods of prevention and management of these problems
  • Agree on a working case definition of sepsis that researchers should use in all future clinical trials
  • Persuade the World Health Organization to include sepsis in its Global Burden of Disease report, and establish national registries to find out the population-based incidence of the disorder
  • Invest in clinical science that identifies new treatment targets and strategies, especially for patients with sepsis who live in low-income and middle-income countries, and that applies the principles of personalized medicine to the treatment of sepsis
  • Encourage pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies to work with the academic community to make it easier to conduct exploratory studies of new drugs for sepsis

Another recent study suggested that improved understanding of the causes of sepsis-related hospital readmissions could help providers tailor post-discharge care to sepsis patients’ unique risks, FierceHealthcare has reported. Indeed, research by the American Thoracic Society has indicated that “improved care for sepsis patients of all severity levels and in all hospital settings could result in many future lives saved.”

Sources: FierceHealthcare; April 20, 2015; Science Daily; April 19, 2015; and Lancet Infectious Diseases; May 2015.

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