Open Access Research article

Functional outcomes of general medical patients with severe sepsis

Andrew J Odden1*, Jeffrey M Rohde1, Catherine Bonham2, Latoya Kuhn3, Preeti N Malani14, Lena M Chen15, Scott A Flanders1 and Theodore J Iwashyna13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

2 Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, The University of Chicago, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, MC 6092, MC6076, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

3 Center for Clinical Management Research, Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System, 2215 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA

4 Geriatrics Research and Education Center, Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System, 2215 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA

5 Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System, 2215 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:588  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-588

Published: 12 December 2013



Severe sepsis is a common cause for admission to the general medical ward. Previous work has demonstrated substantial new long-term disability in patients with severe sepsis, but the short-term functional outcomes of patients admitted to the general medical floor -- where the majority of severe sepsis is treated -- are largely unknown.


A retrospective cohort study was performed of patients initially admitted to non-ICU medical wards at a tertiary care academic medical center. Severe sepsis was confirmed by three physician reviewers, using the International Consensus Conference definition of sepsis. Baseline functional status, disposition location, and receipt of post-acute skilled care were recorded using a structured abstraction instrument.


3,146 discharges had severe sepsis by coding algorithm; from a random sample of 111 patients, 64 had the diagnosis of severe sepsis confirmed by reviewers. The mean age of the 64 patients was 63.5 years +/- 18.0. Prior to admission, 80% of patients lived at home and 50.8% of patients were functionally independent. Inpatient mortality was 12.5% and 37.5% of patients were discharged to a nursing facility. Of all patients in the cohort, 50.0% were discharged home, and 66.7% of patients who were functionally independent at baseline were discharged to home.


New physical debility is a common feature of severe sepsis in patients initially cared for on the general medical floor. Debility occurs even in those with good baseline physical function. Interventions to improve the poor functional outcomes of this population are urgently needed.

Severe sepsis; Functional outcomes; Geriatrics; General ward; Non-ICU; Disability; Sepsis