Study Says Older Hospital Patients are at High Risk of Developing Sepsis

By Nursing Home Law Center

Sepsis Risk

A recent joint study from Vanderbilt and Brown Universities found that hospital patients 65 and older have a fairly high risk of developing sepsis, or illness caused by severe blood infection. Sepsis (also called severe sepsis, sepsis infection, and septic shock) is a potentially deadly condition that’s often caused by late-stage bed sores.

The Vanderbilt/Brown study found that 750,000 patients develop sepsis in the U.S. each year alone, and that more than 60% of those patients are over the age of 65. Risk factors for sepsis, according to the study, include: weakened immune system, frequent hospitalizations, malnutrition, and incidences of pneumonia. Another strong risk factor is exposure to medical tubes and catheters; both of which often serve as portals for infection.

Patients with sepsis frequently display what the study calls “confusion or altered mental states”, or delirium. Other signs of sepsis include: weakness, loss of interest in food, urinary incontinence, and falls.

The study recommends that hospitals implement strong infection-control programs. It also recommends that hospitals devote more resources to observing elderly patients – yet also acknowledges the challenges in doing so.

“It may be difficult to obtain samples of blood, body fluids or tissue from patients who are cognitively impaired, debilitated, dehydrated or frail”, the study notes. “Positioning patients for high-quality chest radiography is [also] difficult”.

According to the study, sepsis accounts for close to $17 billion in U.S. hospital costs each year.

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