Sepsis (coming from the Greek meaning putrefaction and decay) is a severe inflammatory state caused by an infection that can deteriorate into organ failure and death if not contained by the immune system or medical intervention. Sepsis is caused by the immune system’s response to an infection in the blood, urinary tract, lungs, skin, or other tissues.
Sepsis causes millions of deaths globally each year. In the United States, sepsis contributes to more than 200,000 deaths per year. There were 4.07 million cases of septicemia – infection of the blood – from 1995 to 2000, of which 730,000 died. In 1995, the average costs per case were $22,100, with annual total costs in the U.S. of $16.7 billion. It is the second-leading cause of death in the ICU, and the tenth-most-common cause of death overall (the first being heart disease). Premature infants and elderly have the highest incidence of severe sepsis. It accounts for about 25% of all ICU bed utilization.