Long-term mortality and quality of life in sepsis: a systematic review

Crit Care Med. 2010 May;38(5):1276-83. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181d8cc1d.


Background: Long-term outcomes from sepsis are poorly understood, and sepsis in patients may have different long-term effects on mortality and quality of life. Long-term outcome studies of other critical illnesses such as acute lung injury have demonstrated incremental health effects that persist after hospital discharge. Whether patients with sepsis have similar long-term mortality and quality-of-life effects is unclear.

Objective: We performed a systematic review of studies reporting long-term mortality and quality-of-life data (>3 months) in patients with sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock using defined search criteria.

Design: Systematic review of the literature.

Interventions: None.

Main results: Patients with sepsis showed ongoing mortality up to 2 yrs and beyond after the standard 28-day inhospital mortality end point. Patients with sepsis also had decrements in quality-of-life measures after hospital discharge. Results were consistent across varying severity of illness and different patient populations in different countries, including large and small studies. In addition, these results were consistent within observational and randomized, controlled trials. Study quality was limited by inadequate control groups and poor adjustment for confounding variables.

Conclusions: Patients with sepsis have ongoing mortality beyond short-term end points, and survivors consistently demonstrate impaired quality of life. The use of 28-day mortality as an end point for clinical studies may lead to inaccurate inferences. Both observational and interventional future studies should include longer-term end points to better-understand the natural history of sepsis and the effect of interventions on patient morbidities.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sepsis / mortality*
  • Sepsis / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors