Sepsis Alliance Responds To New Research Revealing Children Who Survive Sepsis Experience Decline In Quality Of Life


May 9th, 2017

While sepsis mortality rates have decreased in recent years, new research presented yesterday unveils the adverse effects in the quality of life for children who survive sepsis including challenges in physical, emotional, social and school functioning. 

SAN DIEGO, CA – Sepsis Alliance, the nation’s leading sepsis patient advocacy organization, is calling attention to a new study that reveals nearly one out of every four children who survive sepsis will experience lingering health effects and a decline in their quality of life.

The new research, presented yesterday at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting by Elizabeth Killien, a pediatric critical care medicine fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine, confirms that 23 percent of children who are diagnosed with sepsis do not recover completely, leading to a decrease in their quality of life and affecting their physical, emotional, social and school functioning.

Sepsis, also referred to as septic shock or “blood poisoning,” is the body’s overwhelming and often life-threatening response to infection and can lead to organ failure, tissue damage, and death. More than 42,000 children develop severe sepsis each year in the United States, and 4,400 of these children die.

Dr. Killien’s pediatric study compared four main areas of quality of life for children, including physical, emotional, social, and school functioning. The study is groundbreaking as it evaluated these areas before, during, and after children were hospitalized from sepsis, establishing a solid baseline for each child. The study showed that many children did not return to their baseline after hospitalization and did not completely recover, leading to a decrease in their quality of life as a result of sepsis.

“This research shines an important spotlight on the long-lasting effects of sepsis in children, some of our most vulnerable patients,” said Thomas Heymann, Executive Director of Sepsis Alliance. “Many people believe that once you survive sepsis, you’re in the home stretch and will be able to return to normal life. However, this study demonstrates that many children who develop sepsis do not make a full recovery and have life-changing consequences. Dr. Killien’s findings underscore the urgent need for awareness of pediatric sepsis as a medical emergency, and the importance of providing support for young survivors who may be living with lasting effects of sepsis.”

The study also found that the severity of a child’s sepsis had a direct correlation with recovery to their baseline quality of life. In fact, the more severe a child’s sepsis, the lower the chance that the child was able to fully recover. The study showed that 50 percent of children with septic shock were still below their baseline health five months after discharge. This rose to 53 percent for children who experienced central nervous system infections and 56 percent for infections in the blood.

The findings from this research mirror the real-life experience of Zachary Doubek, a healthy and athletic 11-year-old who developed sepsis from a MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) infection in his right leg. Zach spent 12 days on a ventilator and almost a month in the hospital, and underwent six surgeries to repair the damage. After leaving the hospital, he spent an additional eight weeks in a pediatric rehabilitation facility regaining his strength and mobility. Two years later, Zach still suffers from nerve damage complications from sepsis, which cause a mild limp.

Through awareness, pediatric outreach, and Erin’s Campaign for Kids, Sepsis Alliance works to further combat the high incidence, mortality, and injuries from sepsis among children and salutes Dr. Killien for her work investigating the lasting impact sepsis has on children. For more information on sepsis and Sepsis Alliance, please visits Sepsis.org.

The study, titled “Illness Severity Associated with Deterioration of Health-Related Quality of Life Following Pediatric Sepsis,” was presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco on Monday, May 8, 2017.

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About Sepsis Alliance

Sepsis Alliance is the nation’s leading sepsis advocacy organization, dedicated to saving lives by raising awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency. A 501(c)(3) organization, Sepsis Alliance was founded by Dr. Carl Flatley after the sudden, unnecessary death of his daughter Erin to a disease he had never even heard of. Sepsis Alliance produces and distributes educational materials for patients, families and health providers on sepsis prevention, early recognition and treatment. The organization also offers support to patients, sepsis survivors, and family members through its sepsis.org website which receives more than 1.5 million visits each year. The organization founded Sepsis Awareness Month in 2011, and works with partners to host community outreach events across North America. Since Sepsis Alliance began its mission, sepsis awareness has increased almost threefold, from 19% to 55%. For more information on Sepsis Alliance, a GuideStar Gold-rated charity, please visit sepsis.org.