Most Adults Unfamiliar with Sepsis, Survey Shows


Sixty percent of U.S. adults are not familiar with sepsis, despite the fact that more than 200,000 Americans die from it every year, making sepsis one of the leading causes of death in the nation. Lack of awareness is even higher among adults over age 65, who are at greater risk of sepsis, according to a new national survey sponsored by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, part of the North ShoreLIJ Health System.

Sepsis is the bodys life-threatening response to infection and leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if not recognized early and treated promptly. Sepsis remains the primary cause of death from infection despite advances in modern medicine, including vaccines, antibiotics and acute care. Research has shown that health care spending on sepsis has increased by $1.7 billion per year, with no discernible improvement in mortality.

"One in four hospital deaths are caused by sepsis, yet the majority of Americans have never even heard of the condition. Sepsis is a mystery to most Americans," says Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president of the Feinstein Institute. "The lack of awareness and understanding is one of the major challenges we face in healthcare today."

The Feinstein Institute-sponsored survey of 1,000 adults, 18 years of age and older, was conducted online from August 26 September 2, 2010 by APCO Insight, an international research firm. Key findings included:

- 69 percent of seniors, aged 65 and older, are not familiar with the term sepsis. Studies show that seniors are at a higher risk of developing sepsis, often because they have chronic diseases that weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to it.

- Familiarity varied by region. Adults from the southern states are least familiar with the term sepsis, despite the fact that a recently-published study shows the highest mortality rates are also in southern states.

- 63 percent of men versus 55 percent of women are not familiar with sepsis. Published research shows that men have a higher mortality rate than women.

- 67 percent of African-Americans versus 58 percent of Caucasians and 57 percent of Hispanics were not familiar with sepsis. Research has shown that African-Americans have higher incidence rates of sepsis than the population as a whole and that African-American men have the highest mortality rates.

- Only 50 percent of college graduates were familiar with sepsis versus 24 percent of those with a high school diploma or less.

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