Sepsis: Indiana hospitals on the front lines


What is more common than heart attacks and claims more lives than prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined? Sepsis.

Yet, you probably haven’t heard of it. Even in the most developed countries, fewer than half the population understands the danger of this deadly complication.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death. More than 1 million cases of sepsis are diagnosed each year and up to half of those people will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

September is National Sepsis Awareness Month, and the Indiana Patient Safety Center, part of the Indiana Hospital Association, has launched a campaign to spread the word about the dangers of sepsis so that we can See It. Stop It. Survive It.

Sepsis is a serious public health issue, but not a widely known one. According to a 2015 Sepsis Alliance survey, only 47 percent of Americans have heard of sepsis, and even fewer understand the risk factors and warning signs. As health care professionals, it is our responsibility to educate our patients about what sepsis is and what they should do if they or someone they love becomes ill.

Indiana faces a real threat, as almost 3,500 Hoosiers die each year from sepsis, according to the 2015 Indiana Hospital Association Inpatient Discharge Study.

Since 2008, Indiana hospitals have decreased inpatient sepsis mortality from 15.22 percent to 6.12 percent, according to the 2015 Indiana Hospital Association Inpatient Discharge Study. Yet, sepsis mortality still remains the most frequent inpatient discharge, aside from deliveries. Progress has been made, but we must continue to work to reduce the number of sepsis-related deaths across the state.

Our hospital workers are on the front lines to fight sepsis. We will work diligently in September and throughout the year to raise awareness about the dangers of sepsis so that staff, patients and the community better understand what it is and what to do if they suspect sepsis.

Doug Leonard is the president of the Indiana Hospital Association.

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