Residents who exit the hospital after a bout with sepsis aren’t out of the woods for up to a year and require special post-acute vigilance, researchers say.

One in three are likely to face death months after discharge, mostly due to heart disease and stroke, findings indicate.

Many sepsis patients retain inflammation levels twice as high as healthy individuals months after leaving the hospital. This inflammation may be a key reason sepsis is associated with so many cardiovascular problems, reported researcher Sachin Yende, M.D. of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. 

“Our new findings about chronic inflammation post-discharge suggest that addressing this condition may be important to improve patients’ long-term outcomes,” he said.

Yende and his team followed about 480 patients who survived sepsis after hospital discharge. A quarter showed persistent inflammation and half showed elevated levels of immunosuppression biomarkers up to a year later. These patients also had higher rates of hospital readmission — often for cardiovascular events — and death, compared to patients whose inflammation returned to normal after hospitalization.

Sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It’s well known that older residents in long-term care are more likely to have sepsis — up to seven times more often than the general population, according to some estimates.

Study results appeared this month in JAMA Network Open.