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National variation in United States sepsis mortality: a descriptive study

Henry E Wang1*, Randolph S Devereaux1, Donald M Yealy2, Monika M Safford3 and George Howard4

  • * Corresponding author: Henry E Wang

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

2 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2010, 9:9  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-9-9

Published: 15 February 2010



The regional distribution of a disease may provide important insights regarding its pathophysiology, risk factors and clinical care. While sepsis is a prominent cause of death in the United States (US), few studies have examined regional variations with this malady. We identified the national variation in sepsis deaths in the US. We conducted a descriptive analysis of 1999-2005 national vital statistics data from the National Center for Health Statistics summarized at the state-level. We defined sepsis deaths as deaths attributed to an infection, classified according to the International Classification of Diseases, Version 10. We calculated national and state age-adjusted sepsis-attributed mortality rates.


National age-adjusted sepsis mortality was 65.5 per 100,000 persons (95% CI: 65.8 - 66.0). State level sepsis mortality varied more than two-fold (range 41 to 88.6 per 100,000 persons; median 60.8 per 100,000, IQR 53.9-74.4 per 100,000). A cluster extending from the Southeastern to the mid-Atlantic US encompassed states with the highest sepsis mortality.


Sepsis mortality varies across the US. The states with highest sepsis mortality form a contiguous cluster in the Southeastern and mid-Atlantic US. These observations highlight unanswered questions regarding the characteristics and care of sepsis.