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October 27, 2010

The Lingering Consequences of Sepsis: A Hidden Public Health Disaster?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: The CRISMA Center, Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr Angus is a JAMA contributing editor and Caring for the Critically Ill Patient Section Editor.

JAMA. 2010;304(16):1833-1834. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1546

Sepsis, the syndrome of infection complicated by vital organ dysfunction, is a medical emergency that affects more than 750 000 patients in the United States each year and remains one of the world's leading causes of death.1 Without prompt resuscitation, antibiotics, and institution of life support, patients can quickly develop shock, multisystem organ failure, and death. It is not surprising, therefore, that the main goal of care and of research has been to reduce short-term mortality. Assuming a patient survives the initial insult, traditional medical wisdom holds that the crisis has been averted and the patient should do well. However, this conventional thinking is being seriously challenged.