Sepsis is the body's response to infections and is a medical emergency. Anyone can develop sepsis, but those at higher risk include the elderly and people with a weakened immune system. The illness is caused by a reaction to chemicals that the body releases into the bloodstream to fight infection. The result is a high level of inflammation that can trigger septic shock, causing blood pressure to plummet drastically and potentially leading to organ failure, tissue damage, and even death. The mortality rate once septic shock occurs is nearly 50 percent. Sepsis has been on the rise in the United States, but if caught early, antibiotics and heavy doses of intravenous fluids can increase the chance of survival.


Sepsis continues to be the leading cause of death in hospitals in the U.S. and the most expensive condition billed to Medicare. Higher sepsis mortality is observed in Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, including Alabama. In Alabama, other common diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease, are contributory factors to an increased risk of developing sepsis, as well as suffering from poor outcomes due to sepsis. UAB is positioned to provide comprehensive tertiary care in a geographic region of increased sepsis mortality.

In October 2016, UAB Medicine implemented an innovative and standardized screening, response, and treatment algorithm to optimize care delivery to patients with sepsis. Members of the medical emergency team (MET) respond to the bedside for each CODE Sepsis and collaborate with the primary team to determine the presence of new or worsening sepsis, followed by utilization of a standardized order set based on the Surviving Sepsis Campaign’s guidelines. A sepsis coordinator and two critical-care trained physicians serve as the dedicated resources for the sustainment and growth of the sepsis program.

UAB Medicine has seen prominent improvements in outcomes of patients with sepsis since the implementation of CODE Sepsis on October 6, 2016. The number of lives saved is expected to increase as the process is further refined and patients and their loved ones are educated on sepsis, how to identify it, and when to seek medical attention.

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UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

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