WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- A study published in The Lancet Infectuous Diseases found that hospital patients in Europe are more likely to die from severe cases of sepsis and septic shock compared to patients in the United States.
Sepsis, a serious inflammatory condition, forms when a person's immune system responds to an infection that has spread in the body throughout the bloodstream and tissues. The body may go into septic shock if the condition worsens, leading to dangerously low blood pressure and disrupts the function of vital organs. According to The Lancet, about 30 to 50 percent of people die after developing serious sepsis.
In the U.K., approximately 30,000 cases of severe sepsis are recorded each year, and doctors have noted an increase in cases.
Researchers around the world gathered records of over 25,000 patients who had sepsis or septic shock in 186 locations in the U.S. and in Europe. The study found that in European hospitals, there were 12 percent more deaths related to complications with sepsis than in hospitals in the U.S. But the difference of mortality rates between the U.S. and Europe did not prove significant when researchers adjusted the data to factor out the cause of the sepsis and type of organ failure.
The purpose of the study was to investigate how closely hospitals in the U.S. and Europe follow guidelines of sepsis care, known as the Surviving Sepsis Campaign. The study's secondary outcomes found substantial differences in hospital mortality, length of hospital stay and length of stay in Intensive Care (ICU).
Sixty-five percent of patients in U.S. hospitals were admitted to the ICU from the emergency department, compared to 52 percent of patients in Europe admitted to the ICU from general hospital wards. In Europe, patients stayed one day on average in the ICU, while in the U.S., patients only stayed for a few hours.
However, experts say that these numbers do not necessarily relate to a lower level of hospital care in Europe, but show that methods of treatment in the two continents could just be different.
"These results raise important questions about the effect of the approach to critical care in Europe compared with that in the USA," says lead author Dr. Mitchell Levy, M.D., from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in a news release. "Given the higher number of ICU beds per head in the USA than in Europe, more patients with less serious cases of sepsis might be admitted to the ICU. However, this is not at all clear from existing research, and further investigation is urgently needed if we are to be able to accurately monitor, and ultimately improve, sepsis care."
In a linked comment, Dr. Julian Bion, MBBS, from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, U.K., says that "investigators identified important international differences in processes and outcomes of care, which, taken together, provide a convincing argument for the need to address variation in structure and process to reduce mortality from this lethal and complex disease."