In an analysis of about 2,600 hospitalizations for severe sepsis, readmissions within 90 days were common, and approximately 40 percent occurred for diagnoses that could potentially be prevented or treated early to avoid hospitalization, according to a study in the March 10 issue of JAMA.

Patients are frequently rehospitalized within 90 days after having severe sepsis. Little is known, however, about the reasons for readmission and whether they can be reduced. Hallie C. Prescott, M.D., M.Sc., of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined the most common readmission diagnoses after hospitalization for severe sepsis, the extent to which readmissions may be potentially preventable by posthospitalization ambulatory care, and whether the pattern of readmission diagnoses differs compared with that of other acute medical conditions.

The study included participants in the nationally representative U.S. Health and Retirement Study, a sample of households with adults 50 years of age or older, that is linked to Medicare claims (1998-2010). For the analysis, the researchers identified 2,617 hospitalizations for severe sepsis, which were matched to hospitalizations for other acute medical conditions. To gauge what proportion of rehospitalizations may be potentially preventable, ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSCs) were measured, which are diagnoses for which effective outpatient care may reduce hospitalization rates.

There were 1,115 severe sepsis survivors (42.6 percent) rehospitalized within 90 days. The 10 most common readmission diagnoses following severe sepsis included several ACSCs (e.g., heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation, and urinary tract infection). Collectively, ACSCs accounted for 22 percent of 90-day readmissions.

Readmissions for a primary diagnosis of infection (sepsis, pneumonia, urinary tract, and skin or soft tissue infection) occurred in 12 percent of severe sepsis survivors compared with 8.0 percent of matched acute medical conditions. Readmissions for ACSCs were more common after severe sepsis (22 percent) vs matched acute conditions (19 percent) and accounted for a greater proportion of all 90-day readmissions (42 percent vs 37 percent, respectively).

"The high prevalence and concentration of specific diagnoses during the early postdischarge period suggest that further study is warranted of the feasibility and potential benefit of postdischarge interventions tailored to patients' personalized risk for a limited number of common conditions," the authors write.

Citation: JAMA doi:10.1001/jama.2015.1410