Depression and Caring for Sepsis

Sepsis patients' caregivers often show signs of depression

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Severe sepsis is a life-threatening event that can often leave a patient disabled. Spouses of severe sepsis patients have reported experiencing increased levels of depression.

A recent study looked at depressive symptoms in the spouses of severe sepsis patients. Older wives were most likely to report depressive symptoms.

"If you’re caring for a sepsis patient, reach out for help."

Theodore J. Iwashyna, MD, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, led a study into depression in severe sepsis patients’ spouses.

For the study, researchers surveyed 929 severe sepsis patients with spouses.  The group of patients were hospitalized 1,212 times throughout the course of the study.

Without having a history of depression, spouses of severe sepsis patients reported an increase in depressive symptoms one year after sepsis diagnosis.

Overall, depressive symptoms increased by 14 percentage points for wives and 8 percentage points for husbands.

Results of the study also showed that wives of disabled sepsis patients had a greater likelihood of depression. Older women were also more likely to show signs of depression.

Sepsis happens when the body has a serious infection and the body releases chemicals to fight the inflammation, but the inflammation causes tiny blood clots that block oxygen from the organs.

The fall out of sepsis is when the organs begin to fail. There can be a risk of death depending on age, other illnesses and the cause for sepsis.

Sepsis is the most common non-cardiac critical illness, with a rate four times higher than others seen in hospitals.

Dr. Iwashyna said, “We know that patients who survive sepsis face many new problems, but we know little about the emotional toll it takes on patients’ loved ones.”

“Emotional distress may diminish spouses’ abilities to support patients in ongoing rehabilitation and act as surrogate decision-makers for them.”

Authors said, “Spouses of patients with severe sepsis may benefit from greater support and depression screening, both when their loved one dies and when their loved one survives.”

This study was published in July in Critical Care Medicine. Funding was provided by the National Center for Research Resources, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Aging, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 29, 2012
Last Updated:
March 6, 2013