Patients with sepsis are more likely to survive this life-threatening bloodstream infection if they're treated in a hospital that handles a large number of sepsis cases, a new study shows.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 914,000 patients hospitalized with severe sepsis in the United States between 2004 and 2010.

The overall death rate was 28 percent. However, patients treated at hospitals that treated 500 or more sepsis cases a year were 36 percent more likely to survive than those treated at hospitals that treated fewer than 50 sepsis cases a year.

The researchers noted that many of the hospitals that treat the largest numbers of sepsis cases are academic medical centers, which tend to be located in cities.

The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"One of the main barriers to treatment of sepsis is recognizing its early stages, since the symptoms are nonspecific and often similar to those of a viral infection. However, early diagnoses and treatment are key to surviving sepsis and it may be that physicians at hospitals that see a larger volume of patients with severe sepsis are more attuned to these nonspecific symptoms and have put protocols in place to aid in the detection of these critically ill patients," study leader Dr. David Gaieski, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a university news release.

"Our results provide preliminary support for the idea that severe sepsis patients may benefit from treatment at higher-volume specialty centers much the same as the reality that patients who've suffered severe injuries are brought to designated trauma centers and those who've had strokes typically come to certified stroke centers," Gaieski concluded.

Sepsis costs the American health care system about $24 billion a year and is the 11th leading cause of death in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Viral infection comes from contaminated food, water or contact with...

Viral infection comes from contaminated food, water or contact with infected person Credit: HealthDay

More information

The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more about sepsis.

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