Elderly and affected hospital patients do not completely recover from Sepsis or blood poisoning as previously believed. Rather they demonstrate an increase in physical and/or mental decline and deteriorate in cognitive ability.

Sepsis occurs during response of human body to severe infection and is characterized by massive amounts of bacteria in the blood. It has fatal consequences in untreated elderly patients and is a major cause for death in ICUs.

Derek C. Angus, MD from University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine and a long time investigator of sepsis gave his views on the current findings. “Before the modern ICU, people with sepsis who developed organ failure usually died,” he says. “Today, many of these people are surviving. But this study confirms that they are not necessarily surviving with a clean bill of health.”

Patients who become septic develop low blood pressure and shocks. In extreme cases, blood clotting happens and vital organs cease to function. The number of people developing Sepsis every year in United States is as high as 750,000.

In elderly people surviving sepsis there was a threefold increase in mental decline in 3 of 5 survivors. In contrast, the risk of Sepsis remained the same in participants with no previous history. In addition this publication claims that in US alone, 20000 new sepsis patients over age of 65 develop dementia each year. According to scientists – “The cognitive impairment we saw was often quite severe, many people went from being relatively independent to being unable to do their own cooking or live on their own.”

The percentage of occurrence and death by Sepsis was calculated from 1500 people enrolled in this study. Death happened within 90 days in 40% of subjects. Before and after Sepsis, there is an increase in cognitive impairment by three times. More patients (~60%) hospitalized with sepsis deteriorated in cognitive ability (decline in physical ability and mental function). Researchers say - “Among people with no mental or physical limitations before sepsis, around 40% could not walk without assistance in the years after.”

Vaccinate elderly against common infections, monitor ICU practices to identify delirium, progression of Alzheimer’s disease and deterioration in cognitive ability characteristic of sepsis and reducing risk of inflammation are some of the preventive measures suggested by authors.