Sepsis, defined as organ dysfunction due to an infection, is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The annual incidence in the adult Australian population treated in an ICU has been estimated at 0.77/1000; corresponding to more than 15700 new cases each year, (1) with an estimated cost per episode of AUD39300.
This estimate does not include patients not treated in an ICU and international estimates from the USA and Europe suggest that the total number may be three or four times higher (2). As approximately 5000 people die of sepsis in Australia each year, the burden of death from sepsis is greater than the annual national road toll and sepsis causes more deaths than breast, prostate or colo-rectal cancer.
More notably, the incidence of severe sepsis continues to increase both in Australia and in other countries (2 – 4). Sepsis causes or contributes to between one third and one half of all deaths in hospitals in the USA (5).