Sepsis Incidence: A Population-Based Study

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Although sepsis is a major health problem, data on sepsis epidemiology are scarce. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of sepsis, based on clinical findings in all adult patients treated with intravenous antibiotic in all parts of all hospitals in an entire population.


This is a retrospective chart review of patients ≥18 years, living in 2 regions in Sweden, who were started on an intravenous antibiotic therapy on 4 dates, evenly distributed over the year of 2015. The main outcome was the incidence of sepsis with organ dysfunction. The mean population ≥18 years at 2015 in the regions was 1275753. Five hundred sixty-three patients living in the regions were started on intravenous antibiotic treatment on the dates of the survey. Patients who had ongoing intravenous antibiotic therapy preceding the inclusion dates were excluded, if sepsis was already present.


Four hundred eighty-two patients were included in the study; 339 had a diagnosed infection, of those, 96 had severe sepsis according to the 1991/2001 sepsis definitions, and 109 had sepsis according to the sepsis-3. This is equivalent to an annual incidence of traditional severe sepsis of 687/100000 persons (95% confidence interval [CI], 549–824) or according to the sepsis-3 definition of 780/100000 persons (95% CI, 633–926). Seventy-four patients had sepsis according to both definitions.


The incidence of sepsis with organ dysfunction is higher than most previous estimates independent of definition. The inclusion of all inpatients started on intravenous antibiotic treatment of sepsis in a population makes an accurate assessment of sepsis incidence possible.

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