The true incidence of sepsis in surgical cohorts in Ireland remains unclear. According to inpatient audits, patients in surgical diagnostic groups (DRG) who developed sepsis had a longer length of stay and higher mortality rate compared with medical DRG patients who developed sepsis.
We investigated sepsis incidence on a general surgical ward to identify risk factors and strategies to improve management.
Demographics, admission and discharge details, infection risk factors, infection, and sepsis were studied prospectively on a surgical ward in July 2018.
The mean age of 164 patients was 60.5 years (range 18–93 years), 107 (65.2%) were admitted electively, 16 (9.8%) were colonised with a multidrug-resistant organism (MDRO), and 30 (18.3%) were classified as frail on admission. Twelve (7.3%) developed sepsis (ward sepsis rate 118.2/10,000 bed days used). ‘Sepsis’ was documented in six cases and the national sepsis screening form used in four patients. Patients with sepsis were three times as likely to be MDRO-colonised (OR 3.56; 95% CI = 0.86–14.82; p = 0.065) or frail (OR 3.63; 95% CI = 1.07–12.35; p = 0.03), four times as likely to be an inpatient at the end of the study (OR 4.22, 96% CI 1.23–14.49; p = 0.01), and three times as likely to be readmitted (OR 3.46, 95% CI 1.02–11.76; p = 0.03).
Sepsis was under-documented, and barriers exist with use of the national sepsis screening form. Frailty, which is a sepsis risk factor, should be assessed pre-operatively to maximise prevention.