Background: Previous estimates of the incidence of necrotizing soft tissue infections (NSTI) in the United States have substantial limitations and underestimate its occurrence. Improvements in hospital mortality after NSTI have increased the number of survivors at risk for long-term sequelae. This study estimates the incidence of NSTI and the burden of re-admission and associated healthcare spending in patients who survived admission for NSTI. Methods: Index admissions for NSTI were identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes combined with either Current Procedural Technology (CPT) or diagnosis-related group codes to increase specificity. Two separate datasets were used to provide primary and secondary estimates of the annual incidence of NSTIs in the United States: the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) for the years 2012-2016 and the Watson Health dataset for 2009-2013, respectively, and extrapolated to estimate the incidence for 2018. The Nationwide Readmissions Database (NRD) from 2013-2015 was used to estimate of the risk for re-admission, cost of re-admissions, and to compare 90-day re-admission rates for NSTI to common medical conditions. Results: National Inpatient Sample and Watson Health datasets demonstrated an increasing annual incidence and estimated 33,600 and 28,500 cases in 2018, respectively. The estimated annual incidences in the United States in 2018 were 10.3 and 8.7 per 100,000 persons, respectively. Risk of 90-day re-admission ranged from 24%-29% over the 3 years, 89% of which were unplanned. Of those re-admitted, 90% had one or more comorbidities, the most common diagnoses associated with re-admission were infection in 65%, acute kidney injury in 22%, and shock in 10%. The median re-admission length of stay was seven days (interquartile range [IQR]: 4-13 days) with a median cost of re-admission of $13,590 (IQR: $7186-$27440). Conclusion: The incidence of NSTI is more common than generally reported. Re-admission within 90 days is common, occurring in more than one in four survivors resulting in high healthcare costs.
Keywords: Fournier gangrene; gas gangrene; incidence; necrotizing fasciitis; necrotizing soft tissue infection; re-admission.