Blacks More Likely to Die of Severe Sepsis

Analysis shows they're twice as likely as whites or Hispanics to develop condition

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FRIDAY, Feb. 8, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans are almost twice as likely to develop severe sepsis than whites and are more likely to die of severe sepsis than either whites or Hispanics, new research shows.

Severe sepsis is an overwhelming infection of the bloodstream accompanied by acute organ dysfunction. The study, which analyzed data on more than 71 million people, also found that Hispanics had a lower incidence of severe sepsis than whites.

"The difference in incidence was evident by age 20 and continued throughout the adult life span. After accounting for differences in poverty and geography, black race remained independently associated with higher severe sepsis incidence," wrote Dr. Amber E. Barnato, of the Center for Research on Health Care at the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues.

"Blacks do indeed have a higher rate of severe sepsis -- almost double that of whites. Some, but not all, of this increase was explained by blacks' more frequent residence in ZIP codes with higher poverty rates, suggesting that social, rather than biological determinants, such as health behavior and access to primary care, may contribute to this disparity," the researchers noted.

"In contrast, Hispanic ethnicity appeared to be protective, conditional on similar regional urbanicity and poverty." they added.

The type of hospital facilities in which patients received care was a major factor that clearly differed among the racial groups. Compared to whites, blacks were more likely to be treated at hospitals with poorer outcomes for severe sepsis.

"If a black and white patient with the same clinical characteristics were treated at the same hospital, they would have identical case survival rates," wrote Barnato and colleagues. "Therefore, it may be that the hospitals that treat most black patients see black and white patients who are sicker than we can measure using these data sources, and/or that these hospitals are providing lower quality care."

The study was published in the first issue for February of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

More information

The Society of Critical Care Medicine has more about severe sepsis.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Feb. 1, 2008

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