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Crit Care Med. 2019 Aug 5. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000003924. [Epub ahead of print]

Association Between Sepsis and Microvascular Brain Injury.

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Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
Department of Pathology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.
Department of Pathology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle, WA.



Many survivors of sepsis suffer long-term cognitive impairment, but the mechanisms of this association remain unknown. The objective of this study was to determine whether sepsis is associated with cerebral microinfarcts on brain autopsy.


Retrospective cohort study.


Five-hundred twenty-nine participants of the Adult Changes in Thought, a population-based prospective cohort study of older adults carried out in Kaiser Permanente Washington greater than or equal to 65 years old without dementia at study entry and who underwent brain autopsy.


Late-life sepsis hospitalization was identified using administrative data. We identified 89 individuals with greater than or equal to 1 sepsis hospitalization during study participation, 80 of whom survived hospitalization and died a median of 169 days after discharge. Thirty percent of participants with one or more sepsis hospitalization had greater than two microinfarcts, compared with 19% participants without (χ p = 0.02); 20% of those with sepsis hospitalization had greater than two microinfarcts in the cerebral cortex, compared with 10% of those without (χ p = 0.01). The adjusted relative risk of greater than two microinfarcts was 1.61 (95% CI, 1.01-2.57; p = 0.04); the relative risk for having greater than two microinfarcts in the cerebral cortex was 2.12 (95% CI, 1.12-4.02; p = 0.02). There was no difference in Braak stage for neurofibrillary tangles or consortium to establish a registry for Alzheimer's disease score for neuritic plaques between, but Lewy bodies were less significantly common in those with sepsis.


Sepsis was specifically associated with moderate to severe vascular brain injury as assessed by microvascular infarcts. This association was stronger for microinfarcts within the cerebral cortex, with those who experienced severe sepsis hospitalization being more than twice as likely to have evidence of moderate to severe cerebral cortical injury in adjusted analyses. Further study to identify mechanisms for the association of sepsis and microinfarcts is needed.

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