Study aims to cut deaths from severe infection in hospital wards

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are aiming to reduce the risks posed by a life-threatening condition which affects four in ten of Scottish intensive care patients. The project will measure the extent of severe sepsis –life-threatening bacterial infection – in Scottish hospitals.

Severe sepsis, where there is infection plus major organ failure, is a significant health problem, causing death and ill-health and consuming substantial NHS resources. These septic infections can be acquired outside hospital or can be the result of hospital diseases like MRSA. Patients with chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke or diabetes have an increased risk of severe sepsis and a poorer chance of successfully overcoming the infection. About half of intensive care unit patients with sepsis in the UK die from the infection,

Researcher Dr Pam Warner said: "At the moment, there is no reliable method for identifying and tracking sepsis rates or outcomes in UK hospitals, as for example, we are able to do with people who have had heart attacks."

Intensive care physician Dr Simon Mackenzie of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, one of the co-investigators, emphasised: "Reliable data is needed to be able to plan resources such as extra intensive care unit beds and 'outreach' specialised support for care of hospital patients not admitted to intensive care. It would also allow us to assess the impact of campaigns to reduce rates of severe sepsis or to improve outcome –ultimately to cut the death rates."

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The 18-month research project is funded by the Chief Scientist Office.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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