Manhasset, NY – Sixty percent of U.S. adults are not familiar with sepsis, despite the fact that more than 200,000 Americans die from it every year, making sepsis one of the leading causes of death in the nation. Lack of awareness is even higher among adults over age 65, who are at greater risk of sepsis, according to a new national survey sponsored by The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, part of the North Shore–LIJ Health System.
Sepsis is the body’s life-threatening response to infection and leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if not recognized early and treated promptly. Sepsis remains the primary cause of death from infection despite advances in modern medicine, including vaccines, antibiotics and acute care. Research has shown that health care spending on sepsis has increased by $1.7 billion per year, with no discernible improvement in mortality.
“One in four hospital deaths are caused by sepsis, yet the majority of Americans have never even heard of the condition. Sepsis is a mystery to most Americans,” said Kevin J. Tracey, M.D., president of the Feinstein Institute. “The lack of awareness and understanding is one of the major challenges we face in health care today.”
The Feinstein Institute-sponsored survey of 1,000 adults, 18 years of age and older, was conducted online from August 26 – September 2, 2010 by APCO Insight, an international research firm. Key findings included:
- 69 percent of seniors, aged 65 and older, are not familiar with the term sepsis. Studies show that seniors are at a higher risk of developing sepsis, often because they have chronic diseases that weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to it.
- Familiarity varied by region. Adults from the southern states are least familiar with the term ‘sepsis’, despite the fact that a recently-published study shows the highest mortality rates are also in southern states1.
- 63 percent of men versus 55 percent of women are not familiar with sepsis. Published research shows that men have a higher mortality rate than women2.
- 67 percent of African-Americans versus 58 percent of Caucasians and 57 percent of Hispanics were not familiar with sepsis. Research has shown that African-Americans have higher incidence rates of sepsis than the population as a whole and that African-American men have the highest mortality rates2.
- Only 50 percent of college graduates were familiar with sepsis versus 24 percent of those with a high school diploma or less.
The Feinstein Institute released the survey results just prior to the Merinoff Symposium, a two-day international conference that will bring together more than 150 sepsis experts from 18 countries. The conference, which will be held September 30 to October 1 at the institute in Manhasset, N.Y., features presentations from many of the leading health care experts, including:
- Carl Flatley, D.D.S., M.S.D., Dunedin, FL, whose 23-year-old daughter died from sepsis after a minor surgical procedure
- Jackie Wang, of New York City, who beat the odds and survived sepsis earlier this year
- Kevin J. Tracey, M.D., President, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
- Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)
- Patrick Kelley, M.D., Director of the Board of Global Health, Institute of Medicine
- Thomas Deufel, M.D., State Secretary in the Thuringian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Germany
- John Howe, M.D., President and CEO, Project HOPE
- Keith Martin, M.D., Member of Parliament, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, British Columbia
- Edgar Jimenez, M.D., Director, Medical Critical Care, Orlando Regional Medical Center, USA
- Niranjan “Tex” Kissoon, M.D., Associate Head and Professor, Division of Critical Care, Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vice-President, Medical Affairs, BC Children’s Hospital
- Konrad Reinhart, M.D., Director of the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital of the Friedrich Schiller, University of Jena, Germany
“Although this survey was conducted in the U.S., other surveys have shown similar results in Europe. Raising awareness about sepsis is a critical first step to addressing the high mortality rates we’ve seen worldwide,” said Dr. Tracey.
1Wang et al: National variation in United States sepsis mortality: a descriptive study. International Journal of Health Geographics 2010 9.9
2Angus DC, et al. “Epidemiology of severe sepsis in the United States: analysis of incidence, outcome, and associated costs of care. New England Journal of Medicine 2003. 348: 1546-54.
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