skip to page content
Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Measurement of Sepsis in a National Cohort Using Three Different Methods to Define Baseline Organ Function.

Wayne MT, Molling D, Wang XQ, Hogan CK, Seelye S, Liu VX, Prescott HC. Measurement of Sepsis in a National Cohort Using Three Different Methods to Define Baseline Organ Function. Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 2021 Apr 1; 18(4):648-655.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


In 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a new surveillance definition of sepsis, the adult sepsis event (ASE), to better track sepsis epidemiology. The ASE requires evidence of acute organ dysfunction and defines baseline organ function pragmatically as the best in-hospital value. This approach may undercount sepsis if new organ dysfunction does not resolve by discharge. To understand how sepsis identification and outcomes differ when using the best laboratory values during hospitalization versus methods that use historical lookbacks to define baseline organ function. We identified all patients hospitalized at 138 Veterans Affairs hospitals (2013-2018) admitted via the emergency department with two or more systemic inflammatory response criteria, were treated with antibiotics within 48 hours (i.e., had potential infection), and completed 4+ days of antibiotics (i.e., had suspected infection). We considered the following three approaches to defining baseline renal, hematologic, and liver function: the best values during hospitalization (as in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention''s ASE), the best values during hospitalization plus the prior 90 days (3-mo baseline), and the best values during hospitalization plus the prior 180 days (6-mo baseline). We determined how many patients met the criteria for sepsis by each approach, and then compared characteristics and outcomes of sepsis hospitalizations between the three approaches. Among 608,128 hospitalizations with potential infection, 72.1%, 68.5%, and 58.4% had creatinine, platelet, and total bilirubin measured, respectively, in the prior 3 months. A total of 86.0%, 82.6%, and 74.8%, respectively, had these labs in the prior 6 months. Using the hospital baseline, 100,568 hospitalizations met criteria for community-acquired sepsis. By contrast, 111,983 and 117,435 met criteria for sepsis using the 3- and 6-month baselines, for a relative increase of 11% and 17%, respectively. Patient characteristics were similar across the three approaches. In-hospital mortality was 7.2%, 7.0%, and 6.8% for sepsis hospitalizations identified using the hospital, 3-month baseline, and 6-month baseline. The 30-day mortality was 12.5%, 12.7%, and 12.5%, respectively. Among veterans hospitalized with potential infection, the majority had laboratory values in the prior 6 months. Using 3- and 6-month lookbacks to define baseline organ function resulted in an 11% and 17% relative increase, respectively, in the number of sepsis hospitalizations identified.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.