Septicemia, a potentially deadly bacterial blood infection, is occurring more frequently, and according to data from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one reason could be that more patients are acquiring the infection during a hospital stay.
The incidence of septicemia has risen 38% in a decade, with the number of people being treated for the condition rising from about 666,000 in 1993 to more than 1 million in 2003, according to AHRQ queries of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project databases. But the number of cases in which septicemia was the primary diagnoses increased by just under 18%, from 329,000 to 388,000, while the number of cases in which it was the secondary diagnosis jumped nearly 82%, from 337,000 to 612,000, says AHRQ research scientist Joanna Jiang.
"So, in other words, the major increase in hospital use may come from those admitted with septicemia as a co-existing condition at admission or a complication that develops during the hospital stay," Jiang said.
Meanwhile, the inflation-adjusted cost of the average hospital stay for stay for patients admitted with septicemia as either a principal or secondary diagnosis has risen 36%, from $25,000 in 1993 to $34,000 in 2003. And deaths from septicemia increased by nearly 35%, from 49,000 in 1993 to 66,000 in 2003, while the population-adjusted death rate rose 12% during the same period. The U.S. population rose 12.4% during the period.
Jiang said the cost increases above inflation were "not surprising, because the overall cost of hospital care has been going up faster than the economic index" and the rise in the mortality rate had not been adjusted for age differences.
Jiang said she did not drill farther into the data to look for specific causes for the death-rate increase, but "one potential reason I can speculate is the aging population." More than 65% of septicemia patients were age 65 or older, according to AHRQ data.
According for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, septicemia ranks 10th among the leading causes of death for the elderly.