Sepsis Awareness 7: Life After Sepsis

The DFW Hospital Council (DFWHC) Foundation has been coordinating the Sepsis Strike Force over the past five years. Led by Patti Taylor, the DFWHC Foundation’s director of quality and patient safety services, the group is made up of representatives from hospitals across North Texas inspired by the goal to create awareness on the dangers of sepsis in our community. Over the coming months leading to Sepsis Awareness Month in September, the Sepsis Strike Force will post blogs and informational graphics across social media to support their 2021 goal of raising community awareness.

Post-sepsis syndrome: Up to 50% of sepsis survivors are left with physical and psychological long-term effects, a condition known as post-sepsis syndrome. These effects include:

• Insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep;
• Nightmares, vivid hallucinations and panic attacks;
• Disabling muscle and joint pains;
• Extreme fatigue;
• Decreased mental (cognitive) functioning;
• Loss of self-esteem.

Life After Sepsis in Adults:
• About one-third of all patients have another hospitalization within three months of the initial sepsis, most commonly due to a repeat episode of sepsis or another infection.
• One-half to two-thirds of all hospital readmissions after sepsis are infection-related.
• The higher risk of infection following sepsis results from suppression or weakening of the immune system in the first few weeks following the initial bout of sepsis.
• In addition to infection, other common causes of rehospitalization after sepsis are heart failure, kidney failure and pulmonary aspiration.
• Almost 60% of sepsis survivors experience worsened mental and physical function.
• Older sepsis patients experience on average 1 to 2 new limitations on activities of daily living (e.g. bathing, dressing, managing money) after hospitalization.
• One-sixth of sepsis survivors experience difficulties with memory, concentration and decision making.
• Older severe sepsis survivors are at higher risk for long-term cognitive impairment and physical problems than others their age treated for other illnesses.
• Patients who have had sepsis are more likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than other ICU survivors.
• Patients recovering from sepsis are at increased risk of stroke and heart attack in the first 4 weeks after hospital discharge.
• The average cost for a hospital readmission at 30 days after the initial sepsis hospitalization is $16,852. This amounts to more than $3.5 billion in annual costs.

Life After Sepsis in Children:
• More than 20% of child sepsis survivors are readmitted to the hospital within three months of the initial hospitalization.
• More than half of the readmissions after a sepsis hospitalization in children are related to recurring sepsis or infection.
• The average cost of a readmission after a sepsis hospitalization for a child is $7,385, which is 27% more than a non-sepsis readmission.
• Among pediatric sepsis survivors, almost one third (31%) are discharged from the hospital with some disability, including cognitive or physical impairments, skin graft, amputation or hearing loss.
• Almost 1 in 6 pediatric severe sepsis survivors are discharged from the hospital with more disabilities than when they were admitted.
• Survival from sepsis can be very challenging with many children requiring amputations. Many more experience a decrease in cognitive and physical function, with 34 percent of pediatric sepsis survivors showing a decline in their functional status at 28 days after hospital discharge.
• Pediatric severe sepsis survivors who have spent time in the pediatric ICU experience post-traumatic stress disorder more often than children discharged from the general hospital ward.
• Almost 25% of pediatric sepsis survivors have a diminished health-related quality of life, a measure of the effect of health on physical, mental, emotional and social function.

If you suspect sepsis or observe a combination of these symptoms, see your medical professional immediately, CALL 911, or go to a hospital with an advocate and say, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”