A recent study found that elderly sepsis survivors are more than three times more likely to experience cognitive problems following severe infections.
Researchers in the nationwide study involving approximately 1,200 patients with sepsis calculated that the likelihood of surviving patients developing significant cognitive impairment was 3.3 times greater than for non-sepsis events, a Stony Brook University release said.
Sepsis, a condition marked by an over-reaction by the immune system to battle infection, occurs in 1 percent to 2 percent of all U.S. hospitalizations, often following pneumonia or urinary tract infections and resulting in fatalities 40 percent of the time in severe cases, the release said.
“We used to think of sepsis as just a medical emergency, an infection that you get sick with and then recover,” Dr. Theodore (Jack) Iwashyna, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System and lead author of the study, said in the release. “But we discovered a significant number of people face years of problems afterwards.”
Results of the study, which was published recently in JAMA, indicated that 60 percent of severe sepsis patients displayed impaired cognitive and physical function, the release said. Of those previously without physical disabilities, 40 percent of the patients later had difficulty walking and approximately 20 percent experienced new limitations with errands, meal preparation or hygiene.
“These new data show a majority of older patients suffer with real life-changing burdens after beating sepsis. This is an under recognized public health problem with major implications for patients, families and the health care system,” Iwashyna said.