TUESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults who survive
severe sepsis are at increased risk for new physical limitations
and problems with mental functioning, a new study indicates.
This largely invisible problem swells the rolls of nursing homes
and puts an increased burden on caregivers and families, as well as
increasing the rate of depression and death among the elderly, the
Also called "blood poisoning," sepsis is a potentially deadly
infection in the blood or tissues that causes inflammation
throughout the body. In cases of severe sepsis, the infection may
lead to heart problems, organ failure or a sometimes fatal drop in
blood pressure known as septic shock.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and colleagues
analyzed data from 516 patients, average age 76.9, who survived
severe sepsis and compared them to 4,517 patients who survived a
hospitalization that wasn't due to the potentially life-threatening
The study found that the prevalence of moderate to severe
cognitive (brain) impairment was 10.6 percent higher among the
severe sepsis survivors, and they had a 3.3 times greater risk of
developing moderate to severe brain impairment than those
hospitalized for reasons other than sepsis.
Severe sepsis survivors also had a higher rate of new
limitations in physical functioning than those without hospitalized
without sepsis, with an additional average increase of 1.5 things
they could no longer do per patient among those who had no or mild
to moderate functional limitations before they developed
Their counterparts hospitalized for reasons other than sepsis
had no change in cognitive function.
"Cognitive and functional declines of the magnitude seen after severe sepsis are associated with significant increases in caregiver time, nursing home admission, depression and mortality. These data argue that the burden of sepsis survivorship is a substantial, under-recognized public health problem, with major implications for patients, families and the health-care system," Dr. Theodore J. Iwashyna, of the University of Michigan Medical School, and colleagues, said in a news release.
They said hundreds of thousands of people develop severe sepsis
each year in the United States, and nearly 20,000 new cases per
year of moderate to severe cognitive impairment in elderly people
may be due to sepsis.
"Thus, an episode of severe sepsis, even when survived, may represent a sentinel event in the lives of patients and their families, resulting in new and often persistent disability, in some cases even resembling dementia," the researchers wrote.
"Future research to identify mechanisms leading from sepsis to cognitive impairment and functional disability -- and interventions to prevent or slow these accelerated declines -- is especially important now given the aging of the population," they concluded.
The study appears in the Oct. 27 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine has more about