Temporal Trends in Mortality of Critically Ill Patients with Sepsis in the United Kingdom, 1988-2019

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2024 Mar 1;209(5):507-516. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202309-1636OC.


Rationale: Sepsis is a frequent cause of ICU admission and mortality. Objectives: To evaluate temporal trends in the presentation and outcomes of patients admitted to the ICU with sepsis and to assess the contribution of changing case mix to outcomes. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients admitted to 261 ICUs in the United Kingdom during 1988-1990 and 1996-2019 with nonsurgical sepsis. Measurements and Main Results: A total of 426,812 patients met study inclusion criteria. The patients had a median (interquartile range) age of 66 (53-75) years, and 55.6% were male. The most common sites of infection were respiratory (60.9%), genitourinary (11.5%), and gastrointestinal (10.3%). Compared with patients in 1988-1990, patients in 2017-2019 were older (median age, 66 vs. 63 yr), were less acutely ill (median Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II acute physiology score, 14 vs. 20), and more often had genitourinary sepsis (13.4% vs. 2.0%). Hospital mortality decreased from 54.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 51.0-58.1%) in 1988-1990 to 32.4% (95% CI, 32.1-32.7%) in 2017-2019, with an adjusted odds ratio of 0.64 (95% CI, 0.54-0.75). The adjusted absolute hospital mortality reduction from 1988-1990 to 2017-2019 was 8.8% (95% CI, 5.6-12.1). Thus, of the observed 22.2-percentage point reduction in hospital mortality, 13.4 percentage points (60% of total reduction) were explained by case mix changes, whereas 8.8 percentage points (40% of total reduction) were not explained by measured factors and may be a result of improvements in ICU management. Conclusions: Over a 30-year period, mortality for ICU admissions with sepsis decreased substantially. Although changes in case mix accounted for the majority of observed mortality reduction, there was an 8.8-percentage point reduction in mortality not explained by case mix.

Keywords: Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation; critical illness; hospital mortality; sepsis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Critical Illness*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sepsis*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology