Trends in postoperative sepsis: are we improving outcomes?

Todd R Vogel, Viktor Y Dombrovskiy, Stephen F Lowry
Surgical Infections 2009, 10 (1): 71-8

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Each year, as many as two million operations are complicated by surgical site infections in the United States, and surgical patients account for 30% of patients with sepsis. The purpose of this study was to determine recent trends in sepsis incidence, severity, and mortality rate after surgical procedures and to evaluate changes in the pattern of septicemia pathogens over time.

METHODS: Analysis of the 1990-2006 hospital discharge data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) State Inpatient Databases (SID) for New Jersey. Patients >or= 18 years who developed sepsis after surgery were identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes as defined by the Patient Safety Indicator "Postoperative Sepsis" developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Severe sepsis was defined as sepsis complicated by organ dysfunction.

RESULTS: A total of 1,276,451 surgery discharges (537,843 elective [42.1%] and 738,608 non-elective [57.9%] procedures) were identified. After elective surgery, 5,865 patients (1.09%) developed postoperative sepsis, of whom 2,778 (0.52%) had severe sepsis. The incidence of postoperative sepsis after elective surgery increased from 0.67% to 1.74% (p < 0.0001) and severe sepsis after elective surgery from 0.22% to 1.12% (p < 0.0001). The sepsis mortality rate for elective procedures showed no significant change over time. The proportion of severe sepsis after elective cases increased from 32.9% to 64.6% (p < 0.0002). The rates of postoperative sepsis (4.24%) and severe sepsis (2.28%) were significantly greater for non-elective than for elective procedures (p < 0.0002). Non-elective surgical procedures had a significant increase in the rates of postoperative sepsis (3.74% to 4.51%) and severe sepsis (1.79% to 3.15%) over time (p < 0.0001) with the proportion of severe sepsis increasing from 47.7% to 69.9% (p < 0.0002). The in-hospital mortality rate after non-elective surgery decreased from 37.9% to 29.8% (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: Sepsis and death were more likely after non-elective than elective surgery. Sepsis and severe sepsis has increased significantly after elective and non-elective procedures over the last 17 years. The hospital mortality rate was reduced significantly after non-elective surgery, but no improvements were found for elective surgery patients who developed sepsis. Disparities in age, sex, and ethnicity and the development of postoperative surgical sepsis were found. Population-based studies may assist in defining temporal trends, disparities, and outcomes in sepsis not elucidated in smaller studies.

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