Sepsis is recognized as a global public health problem, but the proportion due to hospital-acquired infections remains unclear. We aimed to summarize the epidemiological evidence related to the burden of hospital-acquired (HA) and ICU-acquired (ICU-A) sepsis.
We searched MEDLINE, Embase and the Global Index Medicus from 01/2000 to 03/2018. We included studies conducted hospital-wide or in intensive care units (ICUs), including neonatal units (NICUs), with data on the incidence/prevalence of HA and ICU-A sepsis and the proportion of community and hospital/ICU origin. We did random-effects meta-analyses to obtain pooled estimates; inter-study heterogeneity and risk of bias were assessed.
Of the 13,239 studies identified, 51 met the inclusion criteria; 22 were from low- and middle-income countries. Twenty-eight studies were conducted in ICUs, 13 in NICUs, and ten hospital-wide. The proportion of HA sepsis among all hospital-treated sepsis cases was 23.6% (95% CI 17-31.8%, range 16-36.4%). In the ICU, 24.4% (95% CI 16.7-34.2%, range 10.3-42.5%) of cases of sepsis with organ dysfunction were acquired during ICU stay and 48.7% (95% CI 38.3-59.3%, range 18.7-69.4%) had a hospital origin. The pooled hospital incidence of HA sepsis with organ dysfunction per 1000 patients was 9.3 (95% CI 7.3-11.9, range 2-20.6)). In the ICU, the pooled incidence of HA sepsis with organ dysfunction per 1000 patients was 56.5 (95% CI 35-90.2, range 9.2-254.4) and it was particularly high in NICUs. Mortality of ICU patients with HA sepsis with organ dysfunction was 52.3% (95% CI 43.4-61.1%, range 30.1-64.6%). There was a significant inter-study heterogeneity. Risk of bias was low to moderate in ICU-based studies and moderate to high in hospital-wide and NICU studies.
HA sepsis is of major public health importance, and the burden is particularly high in ICUs. There is an urgent need to improve the implementation of global and local infection prevention and management strategies to reduce its high burden among hospitalized patients.

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