Septicemia Among Conditions Driving Hospital Costs

Hospital charges for the most expensive patient stays at U.S. hospitals in 2008 averaged about $18,000 per day, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These patients were most likely to be in the hospital for treatment of septicemia, hardening of the arteries, and heart attacks.

According to the analysis by the federal agency, the average was based on the top 5 percent most expensive hospitalizations, or about 2 million patient stays. These stays lasted an average of 19 days. In contrast, daily hospital bills for the remaining 95 percent of patient stays in 2008 averaged just under $7,000 and 4 days, and were most likely for childbirth, pneumonia, and heart failure.

Compared to the less expensive stays, patients with the more expensive hospital stays also were:

-- More severely ill about 10 times more likely to experience extreme loss of function (39 percent versus 4 percent).

-- At greater risk of dying in the hospital nine times more likely to be in the highest category for risk of death in the hospital (28 percent versus 3 percent).

-- Were older average age of 59 versus 48 years.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Most Expensive Hospitalizations, 2008 ( The report uses data from the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.