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Sepsis: nurse education is needed to improve survivors’ long-term outcomes

Study found 15% of survivors die within a year of critical illness

Study found 15% of survivors die within a year of critical illness


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Nurses need training in how to give long-term support to people who have survived sepsis, according to Sepsis UK.

The charity's support lead, nurse Larry Matthews was responding to research that found sepsis survivors have an elevated risk of death.

The study found 15% of people discharged from hospital following a critical care admission for sepsis died within 12 months. And 44% of the 94,748 individuals studied had died within six years.

Health and social problems are common

Mr Matthews said: 'It is vital all nursing staff are given training in sepsis recognition and treatment but it is also essential they are given training on recovery and common health and social problems experienced following sepsis,’ he said.

'With this knowledge they will be able to prepare patients and families for discharge, giving information on what to expect during recovery and signposting to appropriate support for those that experience problems.'

Interventions and identifying risk

The research team, led by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust critical care physician Manu Shankar-Hari, will now to identify interventions and risk.  

‘We will be trying to find out what the best interventions are to prevent these deaths and how to identify those survivors at greatest risk and more likely to benefit,’ he said. ‘More importantly, this research informs planning of follow-up care of sepsis survivors and critical illness survivors in general.’ 


Rose Gallagher. Picture: David Gee

Being older, male and having multiple health problems were found to increase mortality among sepsis survivors. Condition severity and length of hospital stay were also found to be possible risk factors.

Life after sepsis

RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control, Rose Gallagher, said individuals could experience a variety of physical and psychological challenges following sepsis.

‘Patients who survive sepsis are also left with long-term physical and psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, fatigue, decreased cognitive function, anxiety, depression and insomnia,’ she said.

The research was conducted between April 2009 and March 2015 using data from 192 critical care units in England. The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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