Sepsis costs Ontario healthcare system $1 billion per year

Posted on Monday, February 22, 2021

A study published in Critical Care Medicine led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa, and ICES shows that severe sepsis is linked with higher mortality, increased hospital readmission and higher healthcare costs. In Ontario these healthcare costs are estimated at $1 billion per year.

Sepsis happens when a person’s immune system overreacts to infection, triggering inflammation throughout the body. Severe sepsis causes organ dysfunction. Sepsis is recognized as a global health priority, affecting millions of people world-wide every year. It is also a leading cause of death among COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

“Sepsis puts an immense burden on patients, and the effects can last months or years. Our study provides new information on the true healthcare costs of sepsis in Canada.”- Dr. Kednapa Thavorn, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine

“Sepsis puts an immense burden on patients, and the effects can last months or years,” said Dr. Kednapa Thavorn, lead author of the study and Senior Scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and Adjunct Scientist at ICES. “Our study provides new information on the true healthcare costs of sepsis in Canada.”

Using data from across Ontario housed at ICES, the researchers looked at 200,000 sepsis patients admitted to hospital between April 2012 and March 2016, and matched them to similar hospitalized patients without sepsis. About a third of the 200,000 sepsis patients had severe sepsis with organ dysfunction.

The research team compared rates of death, length of hospital stay, hospital readmission, and healthcare costs between these groups. Patients were followed on average for two years, up to a maximum of five years.

The team found that patients with severe sepsis had higher rates of death than similar patients without sepsis, with mortality rates 66 percent higher over the course of the study. Sepsis was also associated with longer hospital stays and greater risk of re-hospitalization.

Healthcare costs were significantly higher for sepsis patients. Compared to patients without sepsis, healthcare costs in the year after hospital admission were $9,475 greater for a sepsis patient, and $29,238 greater for a severe sepsis patient. All costs were calculated in 2018 Canadian dollars.

“This publication highlights the need for improved early identification of patients of risk of sepsis and strategies to monitor and treat those who survive sepsis to reduce the significant health and economic burden,” says Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud, Scientific Director at Sepsis Canada. “Investing in sepsis research in Ontario could have a major impact on this devastating disease.”

Full Reference: Sepsis-Associated Mortality, Resource Use, and Healthcare Costs: A Propensity-Matched Cohort Study. Kelly Farrah, Lauralyn McIntyre, Christopher J. Doig, Robert Talarico, Monica Taljaard, Murray Krahn, Dean Fergusson, Alan J. Forster, Doug Coyle, Kednapa Thavorn. Critical Care Medicine. Dec 17, 2020. DOI: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004777

Data sources: ICES, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Cancer Care Ontario, The Canadian Institute for Health Information

Funding: The study was funded by The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization Innovation Fund. It was also supported by ICES, which is funded by Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Research at The Ottawa Hospital is also enabled by generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.


For media enquiries:
Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Cell: 613.297.8315

Paul Logothetis
Media Relations Agent
University of Ottawa
Cell: 613.863.7221


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