Skip to content

Contact: Joe Martin
717-232-6787 or


Harrisburg, PA – October 4, 2017 – According to a research brief released today by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), the number of hospital admissions related to sepsis increased 89% between 2008 and 2016.

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s extreme response to an infection. Without appropriate and timely treatment, serious complications such as organ failure or even death can occur.

“The increase in sepsis hospitalizations is likely related to an aging population, corresponding increases in chronic health conditions, heightened awareness, and enhanced detection and diagnosis,” said Joe Martin, PHC4’s Executive Director. “National efforts are underway to identify sepsis in its early stages in an effort to improve sepsis management.”

In 2016, sepsis-related hospital admissions amounted to an estimated $1.69 billion in hospital payments.

“Appropriate management of chronically-ill patients remains a challenge, as reflected in these increased sepsis numbers,” noted Mr. Martin.

Statewide, the in-hospital mortality rate for patients hospitalized with sepsis was 10.5% in 2016, down from 19.8% in 2008. Patients with sepsis are often readmitted to the hospital. In 2016, the 30-day readmission rate was 19.9%, an improvement over 2008 when the rate was 25.4%.

Outcomes differ, however, depending on whether the patient was admitted with a sepsis diagnosis or whether sepsis developed during the hospital stay. In 7.9% (7,874) of the sepsis cases in 2016, sepsis was not present at the time the patient was admitted to the hospital; that is, sepsis developed during the hospital stay. In general, outcomes for these patients were worse compared to those who were admitted with sepsis.

  • Cases with sepsis at the time of admission had an in-hospital mortality rate of 8.9%, stayed in the hospital, on average, 7.3 days, and were readmitted within 30 days at a rate of 19.5%.
  • In comparison, cases in which sepsis developed during the hospital stay had an in-hospital mortality rate of 28.4%, stayed in the hospital, on average, 21.0 days, and were readmitted within 30 days at a rate of 27.5%.

The brief also examines population-based rates. Statewide, there were 99.1 sepsis-related admissions per 10,000 Pennsylvania residents. Residents aged 65 and older had a higher rate at 263.1. Lower income residents had a rate of 124.3. For black (non-Hispanic) residents, the rate was 120.0.

County-level population-based rates are also included in the brief.

While the brief focuses on hospital admissions for Pennsylvania’s adult population (aged 18 and older), PHC4 notes that sepsis also affects neonates (patients aged 28 days or less). There were 1,909 sepsis-related hospital stays for neonates in 2016. About 4.6% of these babies died in the hospital. The majority of the neonatal sepsis cases (79.5%) occurred during a birth admission. The average length of stay for these babies was 22 days.

In addition to this research brief, PHC4 releases hospital-specific data on sepsis treatment in its annual Hospital Performance Report.

The brief is available on PHC4’s website at You can also link to it through social media on Facebook and Twitter.

PHC4 is an independent state agency charged with collecting, analyzing and reporting information that can be used to improve the quality and restrain the cost of health care in Pennsylvania.

225 Market Street, Suite 400
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Phone: (717) 232-6787
Fax: (717) 232-3821