Hospitals around the world Thursday are focusing on an enormous problem for their sickest patients. A Charlotte hospital is among the more than 1,400 taking part in a one-day study of the life-threatening illness called sepsis.
Sepsis is basically your body overreacting to an infection, and it can lead to organ failure and death.
Dr. Alan Heffner leads Carolinas HealthCare System's campaign against it and works at the flagship hospital, CMC-Main.
"The best snapshot we have right now is that this is a disease that kills more people every single year than a lot of other very high-profile diseases, like breast cancer, like leukemia, like lung cancer, like stroke," Dr. Heffner said.
He said "the best snapshot" because there's not a complete picture – there's just not great data on sepsis. Researchers have historically tracked the infections that it starts with.
"For instance, when we say someone dies of pneumonia, pneumonia is an infection in the lung," Dr. Heffner said. "And while you can say yes, pneumonia was their source of infection, what that person really died from is sepsis as a consequence of pneumonia."
To get a better understanding of it, the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine organized a study with more than 1,400 hospitals, including CMC-Main. They're all tracking cases of sepsis over a 24-hour period that ends at midnight.
Dr. Chris Farmer is the soon-to-be president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
"We'll have a snapshot for one day – who are these patients?" he said. "How many of them? (We'll) answer all these questions about their severity of illness, what's working, what's broken, all of those things. And we'll collate all this information together and analyze those things."
The results will come out early next year, and will give hospitals a better understanding of one of their biggest problems and how to treat it.