Prior sepsis hospitalization raises risk of future CV events

Feb. 3, 2023

People who are discharged after a hospitalization involving sepsis were at greater risk of cardiovascular events, rehospitalization for any cause or death during a maximum follow-up of 12 years compared to those hospitalized and did not have sepsis, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

Sepsis is a leading cause of hospitalization and death worldwide. Each year in the U.S., about 1.7 million people develop sepsis, an extreme immune response to an infection in the bloodstream that can spread throughout the whole body and lead to organ failure and possibly death. 

“We know that infection may be a potential trigger for myocardial infarction or heart attack, and infection may also predispose a patient to other cardiovascular events, either directly during infection or later when the infection and related effects on the body promote progressive cardiovascular disease,” said lead study author Jacob C. Jentzer, M.D., FAHA, an assistant professor of medicine in the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 

In this study, researchers examined whether adults who had sepsis may have a higher risk of death and a higher risk of rehospitalization for cardiovascular events after hospital discharge. They queried a database containing administrative claims data and identified more than 2 million enrollees of commercial and Medicare Advantage insurance across the U.S. who survived a non-surgical hospitalization of two nights or more between 2009 and 2019. Of these patients, who were ages 19-87 years, the medical claims indicate more than 800,000 had sepsis during their hospital stay. The researchers analyzed the association of hospitalization with sepsis, rehospitalization and death over a follow-up period from 2009 to 2021. 

Because variations in sepsis diagnosis and documentation may affect outcomes in research and clinical treatment, researchers included two standard diagnosis codes used for sepsis: explicit and implicit. Explicit sepsis means a physician formally diagnosed the patient. Implicit sepsis is an administrative code in the electronic health record (EHR) given automatically when a patient has both an infection and organ failure, which is the currently accepted definition of sepsis. The presence of either definition of sepsis was used to classify patients as having sepsis versus no sepsis. 

To focus on the potential cardiovascular impact of sepsis, researchers compared 808,673 hospitalized patients who had sepsis to 1,449,821 hospitalized patients who did not develop sepsis but still had cardiovascular disease or one or more cardiovascular disease risk factors (older age, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, obesity or smoking). 

“Our findings indicate that after hospitalization with sepsis, close follow-up care is important, and it may be valuable to implement cardiovascular prevention therapies with close supervision,” Jentzer said. “Professionals need to be aware that people who have previously had sepsis are at very high risk for cardiovascular events, and that it may be necessary to advise them to increase the intensity of their cardiovascular prevention.” 

The study authors will continue to evaluate new data on people who have previously had sepsis during hospitalization in order to map out their needs for cardiovascular prevention therapies. “It’s an important opportunity to establish what might and might not work in the future for people who have had sepsis,” Jentzer said. 

American Heart Association release