Delivery-associated sepsis: trends in prevalence and mortality

Published:February 17, 2019DOI:


      Sepsis is a leading cause of pregnancy-related mortality. Previous studies have reported an increased prevalence of sepsis during pregnancy. Despite national campaigns to increase sepsis awareness, there is a lack of pregnancy-specific guidelines.


      We aimed to provide updated national estimates of the prevalence and trends of sepsis, sepsis-related in-hospital mortality, and factors associated with in-hospital mortality among women with sepsis at delivery.

      Study Design

      We conducted a serial, cross-sectional analysis using data from the 2002–2015 National Inpatient Sample, the largest publicly available all-payer inpatient database in the United States. We used International Classification of Diseases, ninth edition, Clinical Modification diagnosis and procedure codes to identify the study sample of delivery-associated hospitalizations and to capture diagnoses of sepsis (defined as infection with associated end-organ dysfunction). The primary outcome was in-hospital mortality. Obstetric comorbidities and pregnancy-related outcomes were also analyzed. Logistic regression was used to explore factors associated with sepsis during pregnancy and, among those with sepsis, to identify predictors of in-hospital mortality. Joinpoint regression was used to estimate the temporal trends in both sepsis and in-hospital mortality.


      Of the more than 55 million delivery-associated hospitalizations, 13,129 women met criteria for sepsis, corresponding to a rate of 2.4 per 10,000 deliveries. This rate increased from 1.2 to 3.7 per 10,000 over the study period, representing an annual increase of 6.6% (95% confidence interval, 4.2–9.1). The highest crude rates of sepsis (per 10,000) were among deliveries paid for by Medicare (14.8), deliveries to women aged 40 years or older (8.0), and deliveries to non-Hispanic black women (4.6). Compared with women without sepsis, women with sepsis had a greater than 10-fold increased prevalence of most selected obstetric comorbidities. One in 11 women with sepsis died prior to discharge, compared with 1 death in every 15,411 deliveries without sepsis. The sepsis-related mortality rate decreased 21.8% each year from 2010 through 2015. Maternal age greater than 40 years and nonprivate insurance demonstrated the highest odds of sepsis-related in-hospital mortality.


      While rates of delivery-associated sepsis have increased, case fatality has decreased.

      Key words

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