What is the incidence of sepsis in the US?

Updated: Oct 07, 2020
  • Author: Andre Kalil, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael R Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FCCP, FAPS, MCCM  more...
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An analysis of a large sample from major US medical centers reported the incidence of sepsis (at the time, deemed severe sepsis) as 3 cases per 1000 population and 2.26 cases per 100 hospital discharges. [40] Of these patients, 51.1% were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and an additional 17.3% were cared for in an intermediate care or coronary care unit. When analyzed in relation to age, the incidence of sepsis ranged from 0.2 cases per 1000 admissions in children to 26.2 per 1000 in individuals older than 85 years.

In this analysis, mortality was 28.6% overall, ranging from 10% in children to 38.4% in elderly people. [40] Hospital billing codes were used to identify patients with infection and organ dysfunction consistent with the definition of severe sepsis at that time. Sepsis resulted in an average cost of $22,100 per case, with an annual total cost of $16.7 billion nationally.

In a large retrospective analysis, the National Center for Health Statistics used the National Hospital Discharge Survey of 500 nonfederal US hospitals (which included more than 10 million cases of sepsis over a 22-year period) to report that septicemia accounted for 1.3% of all hospitalizations. [41] The incidence of sepsis increased 3-fold between 1979 and 2000, from 83 cases per 100,000 population per year to 240 per 100,000.

A subsequent large survey of emergency department (ED) visits showed that severe sepsis accounted for more than 500,000 such visits annually (0.7% of total visits), that the majority of patients presented to EDs without an academic affiliation, and that the mean length of stay in the ED was approximately 5 hours. [42]

In a later report, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that the inflation-adjusted aggregate cost for the treatment of hospital patients with sepsis increased by 12% per year from 1997 to 2008. [43]

In a 2013 report, Gaieski et al showed that in a large population database, the use of different epidemiologic methodologies affects the average annual incidence of sepsis, which can vary as much as 3.5-fold, depending on the method utilized. [44] The investigators found that when the codes for sepsis in the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9), were used, the incidence  doubled over a 6-year period (2004-2009).

It is possible that the higher incidence rates in this study, relative to those cited in previous studies, may be attributable to the growing awareness of sepsis, the increased use of its code classification, and the inclusion of both ICU and non-ICU patients.

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