Facing the challenge: Decreasing case fatality rates in severe sepsis despite increasing hospitalizations*

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Objective:To determine recent trends in severe sepsis–related rates of hospitalization, mortality, and hospital case fatality in a large geographic area and to determine the impact of age, race, and gender on these outcomes.Design:Trend analysis for the period of 1995 to 2002.Setting:Acute care hospitals in New Jersey.Patients:Subjects ≥18 yrs of age with severe sepsis who were hospitalized in New Jersey during the period of 1995 to 2002.Interventions:None.Measurements and Main Results:We analyzed data from the 1995–2002 New Jersey State Inpatient Databases (SID) developed as part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), covering all acute care hospitals in the state. On the basis of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes for septicemia and organ dysfunction, we identified 87,675 patients with severe sepsis. The percentage of patients with severe sepsis among all hospitalized patients with sepsis grew steadily, from 32.7% to 44.7% (p < .0001), during these years. The crude rate of hospitalization with severe sepsis increased 54.2%, from 135.0/100,000 population in 1995 to 208.2/100,000 population in 2002 (p < .0001). Over time, the crude mortality rate rose by 35.8% (p < .0001), whereas the crude case fatality rate (number of deaths/number of cases) fell from 51.0% to 45.0% (p < .0001). For any given year, the rates of hospitalization and mortality were greater among older patients. After adjustment by age, the rates among blacks were greater than among whites, and they were greater among males than females. At the same time, there was no significant difference in the age-adjusted hospital case fatality rates with regard to gender and race. There was a significant increase in age-adjusted gender- and race-specific rates for hospitalization and mortality from 1995 to 2002. Blacks were more likely than whites to be admitted to the intensive care unit: for males, odds ratio = 1.19 (95% confidence interval, 1.13–1.26), and for females, odds ratio = 1.35 (95% confidence interval, 1.29–1.42). However, although case fatality rate was increased among patients admitted to the intensive care unit, this was not reflected in an increased case fatality among blacks. In addition, age-adjusted gender- and race-specific case fatality rates declined during 1995–2002.Conclusions:In spite of increasing rates of hospitalization and mortality, there is a decreasing case fatality rate for severe sepsis. These data suggest that advances in critical care practice before and during the study period have resulted in improved outcomes for this population.

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