Sepsis Common Cause of ICU Admissions in Patients With MS

Pam Harrison

February 10, 2022

Sepsis is an alarmingly common cause behind ICU admissions in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a retrospective, population-based cohort study indicates.

Furthermore, it contributes to a disproportionately high percentage of the short-term mortality risk among patients with MS admitted to the ICU, findings also show. Short-term mortality risk was defined in the study as a combination of in-hospital death or discharge to hospice.

"We found that the risk of short-term mortality in critically ill patients with MS is four times higher among those with sepsis…so sepsis appears to be comparatively more lethal among patients with MS than in the general population," Lavi Oud, MD, professor of medicine, Texas Tech University HSC at the Permian Basin, Odessa, told Medscape Medical News in an email.

"[Although] the specific mechanisms underlying the markedly higher risk of sepsis among patients with MS compared to the general population remain to be fully elucidated…it's thought that the risk may stem from the dysfunction of the immune system in these patients related to MS itself and to the potentially adverse effect of the immunomodulating therapy we use in these patients," he added.

The study was published online January 11 in the Journal of Critical Care.

Sepsis Rates

The Texas Inpatient Public Use Data File was used to identify adults with a diagnosis of MS admitted to the hospital between 2010 and 2017. Among the 19,837 patients with MS admitted to the ICU during the study interval, almost one third (31.5%) had sepsis, investigators report. "The rate of sepsis among ICU admissions increased with age, ranging from 20.8% among those aged 18-44 to 39.4% among those aged 65 years or older," investigators note.

The most common site of infection among MS patients admitted to the ICU were urinary in nature (65.2%) followed by respiratory (36.1%). A smaller proportion of infections (7.6%) involved the skin and soft tissues, researchers note. A full one quarter of patients developed septic shock in response to their infection while the length of stay among patients with sepsis (mean of 10.9 days) was substantially longer than it was for those without sepsis (mean of 5.6 days), they observe.

At a mean total hospital cost of $121,797 for each ICU patient with sepsis, the cost of caring for each patient was nearly twofold higher than the mean total cost of taking care of ICU patients without sepsis (mean total cost, $65,179). On adjusted analysis, sepsis was associated with a 42.7% (95% CI, 38.9 - 46.5; P < .0001) longer length of hospital stay and a 26.2% (95% CI, 23.1 - 29.1; P < .0001) higher total hospital cost compared with patients without sepsis, the authors point out.

Indeed, ICU admissions with sepsis accounted for 47.3% of all hospital days and for 46.1% of the aggregate hospital charges among all MS patients admitted to the ICU.

"The adjusted probability of short-term mortality was 13.4% (95% CI, 13.0 - 13.7) among ICU admissions with sepsis and 3.3% (95% CI, 3.2 - 3.4) among ICU admissions without sepsis," the authors report.

This translated into a 44% higher risk of short-term mortality at an adjusted odds ratio of 1.44 (95% CI, 1.23 - 1.69; P < .0001) for those with sepsis compared with those without, they add. Among all ICU admissions, sepsis was reported in over two thirds of documented short-term mortality events. The risk of short-term mortality was also almost threefold higher among patients with sepsis who were age 65 years and older compared with patients aged 18-44. 

As Oud noted, there is no specific test for sepsis, and it can initially present in an atypical manner, especially in older, frailer, chronically ill patients as well as in patients with immune dysfunction. "Thus, considering sepsis as a possible cause of new deterioration in a patient’s condition is essential, along with the timely start of sepsis-related care," Oud observed.

A limitation of the study was that the dataset did not include information on the type of MS a patient had, the duration of their illness, the treatment received, the level of disease activity, or the level of disability.

The study had no specific funding. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

J Crit Care. Published online January 11, 2022. Abstract

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