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Sepsis – as common as cancer, as deadly as a heart attack

Sepsis – as common as cancer, as deadly as a heart attack

A research team at Lund University previously showed that nearly 70,000 adults suffer from sepsis each year in Sweden. In a new study, they show that four percent of all hospitalizations in Skåne County are related to sepsis. It is a highly underdiagnosed condition that can be compared to an epidemic. The European Sepsis Alliance has now commissioned researchers to map how common sepsis is in the rest of Europe.

Brief Facts: Sepsis / Epidemiological Research / Retrospective, Quantitative Cohort Study of 1160 Patients / Published in JAMA Network Open.

In 2016, the research team conducted the first study in Skåne where they showed that sepsis is more common than previously thought. The incidence was found to be 750 adults per 100,000 people, which equates to 60-70,000 adults suffering from sepsis in Sweden each year.

– In our most recent study in Skåne, 20 percent of all sepsis patients died within three months. Of those who survived, three-quarters suffered from long-term complications in the form of heart attacks, kidney problems and cognitive difficulties. So sepsis is as common as cancer and as deadly as a heart attack, says Adam Linder, a sepsis researcher and senior lecturer in infectious medicine at Lund University and chief medical officer. in infectious disease care at Skåne University Hospital.

Now, the European Sepsis Alliance has commissioned Lunda researchers to map how common sepsis is in the rest of Europe. And since the healthcare system looks different in different countries, it wasn’t entirely clear how they would be able to get the numbers right. Therefore, the researchers conducted a pilot study in Skåne to see if their methods were applicable in other European hospitals.

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Doctors classify patients using diagnostic codes. Because sepsis is a secondary diagnosis after infection, the condition is greatly underdiagnosed because it is often the underlying disease that rules the diagnostic code. This makes it quite difficult to find a way to determine the correct number of sepsis cases, says Lisa Milhammar, a sepsis researcher at Lund University and assistant chief physician. In the care of infectious diseases in Sakina University Hospital.

In the study, which has now been published in JAMA Network Open, just over four percent of all hospitalizations (equivalent to 7,500 patients) in the Scania region in 2019 were found to be related to sepsis. During the epidemic, the infection rate rose to six percent, but even without Covid-19, researchers believe that sepsis should be seen as an epidemic.

European Union Joint Surveillance System for Sepsis

The researchers now want to use the publication to influence the European Union to set up a common sepsis surveillance system. They are in contact with authorities and researchers in about thirty European countries and hope that the research project will get enough funding to start soon. There is no indication that the number of sepsis cases will be lower in other parts of Europe than in Sweden. In Swedish hospitals, only 2% of all sepsis patients develop resistance to antibiotics, and researchers believe the rate of resistance is higher in many other European countries.

Although sepsis care has improved in recent years, we need to improve our diagnostic methods to find patients earlier and develop treatment methods other than antibiotics to avoid resistance. It is important that awareness of sepsis increases among the public and decision-makers, so that resources end up in the right way, concludes Adam Linder.

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Estimation of sepsis cases using administrative data and review of clinical medical records
JAMA Netw is open. 2023doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.31168

For more information about the study, contact:
Adam Linder, Lecturer, Researcher in Sepsis and University Lecturer in Infectious Medicine at Lund University and Senior Physician in Infectious Diseases Care, Schene University Hospital, [email protected] Tel. 0709-280233

Lisa Milhammar, sepsis researcher at Lund University and assistant chief physician
in infectious disease careSkane University Hospital. [email protected] 076-2351085

Press contact of the Lund University School of Medicine
: Katrin Stahl, 046-222 01 31, 0725-27 97 97, [email protected]