Assessment of Global Incidence and Mortality of Hospital-treated Sepsis. Current Estimates and Limitations

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2016 Feb 1;193(3):259-72. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201504-0781OC.


Rationale: Reducing the global burden of sepsis, a recognized global health challenge, requires comprehensive data on the incidence and mortality on a global scale.

Objectives: To estimate the worldwide incidence and mortality of sepsis and identify knowledge gaps based on available evidence from observational studies.

Methods: We systematically searched 15 international citation databases for population-level estimates of sepsis incidence rates and fatality in adult populations using consensus criteria and published in the last 36 years.

Measurements and main results: The search yielded 1,553 reports from 1979 to 2015, of which 45 met our criteria. A total of 27 studies from seven high-income countries provided data for metaanalysis. For these countries, the population incidence rate was 288 (95% confidence interval [CI], 215-386; τ = 0.55) for hospital-treated sepsis cases and 148 (95% CI, 98-226; τ = 0.99) for hospital-treated severe sepsis cases per 100,000 person-years. Restricted to the last decade, the incidence rate was 437 (95% CI, 334-571; τ = 0.38) for sepsis and 270 (95% CI, 176-412; τ = 0.60) for severe sepsis cases per 100,000 person-years. Hospital mortality was 17% for sepsis and 26% for severe sepsis during this period. There were no population-level sepsis incidence estimates from lower-income countries, which limits the prediction of global cases and deaths. However, a tentative extrapolation from high-income country data suggests global estimates of 31.5 million sepsis and 19.4 million severe sepsis cases, with potentially 5.3 million deaths annually.

Conclusions: Population-level epidemiologic data for sepsis are scarce and nonexistent for low- and middle-income countries. Our analyses underline the urgent need to implement global strategies to measure sepsis morbidity and mortality, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Keywords: epidemiology; incidence; metaanalysis; mortality; sepsis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Sepsis / epidemiology*
  • Sepsis / mortality