Hospital Acquired Infections

According to an updated report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), on any given day in 2011 about 1 in 25 hospital patients had at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI).  Healthcare associated infections (HAI) are infections patients can get while receiving medical treatment in a healthcare facility.  The CDC estimates that there were 722,000 hospital acquired infections in U.S. acute care hospitals and about 75,000 of these patients died during their hospitalizations!

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. commented on the current situation, “…today and every day, more than 200 Americans with healthcare-associated infections will die during their hospital stay.” Please don’t miss this: every single day more than 200 patients die as a result of an infection they acquired while in the hospital.

The CDC admits that healthcare-associated infections are a “major threat to patient safety” but from our perspective, this is a major understatement.

The report describes national and state progress in preventing these specific types of healthcare-associated infections (HAI):

Central line-associated bloodstream infections — A central line is a tube placed in a large vein of a patient’s neck or chest in order to more easily and quickly administer medical treatment.  Even though they are efficient delivery systems, central lines run the risk of becoming freeways for disease-causing micro-organisms when the lines are not carefully installed and continuously monitored.  Central line-associated bloodstream infections result in thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars in added costs to the health-care system.  Staphylococcus aureus, KlebsiellaEscherichia coliAcinetobacter baumanniiPseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterococcus are a few of the different pathogens which can be involved.  Hospitals reported a significant decrease in the number of central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2011 and 2012.  [Please see “A Rogues Gallery” on our MDR Superbugs blog where we explain how serious the infections caused by these various pathogens can be]

Catheter-associated urinary tract infections — Urinary tract infections are the most common type of HAI, approximately 75% of which are associated with the use of a catheter.  Between 15-25% of hospitalized patients receive a urinary catheter during their stay.  Urinary catheters must be inserted correctly, must be kept clean and must not be left in a patient for too long.  Otherwise they can become conduits for bacterial pathogens, which can infect the urethra, the bladder, ureters and kidneys.  Hospitals reported a 3% increase in the number of these infections.

Surgical site infections — Occur when pathogenic microorganisms get into an area where surgery was performed.  These can involve the skin, tissues under the skin, organs and/or implanted material.  Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant  S. aureus (MRSA) is the leading cause of these infections.  Hospitals reported a significant decrease in the number of surgical site infections.  [Please see “A Rogues Gallery” on our MDR Superbugs blog where we explain how serious these infections can be]

Hospital-onset Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections — MRSA is usually spread by direct contact with an infected wound or contaminated hands.  MRSA can cause serious bloodstream infections.  Hospitals reported a 4% decrease in the number of MRSA infections.  [Please see “A Rogues Gallery” on our MDR Superbugs blog where we explain how serious MRSA infections can be]

Hospital-onset Clostridium difficile (C. Difficile) infections — C. difficile is usually spread by contact with contaminated surfaces or contaminated hands.  Hospitals reported a 2% decline in the number of infections.  [Please see “A Rogues Gallery” on our MDR Superbugs blog where we explain how serious C. difficile can be]

To their credit, hospitals have made some progress in the effort to reduce the number of infections which now commonly threaten patients.  To the extent there has been any improvement, they are to be commended.  However, there is still a long way to go.

The bottom line here is that you want to do everything you can to stay out of the hospital.  Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t have a choice.  And so we urge you to read our post, Surviving a Hospital Stay so that you will be prepared.

The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID) published an excellent and very helpful article, “15 Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk of a Hospital Infection”.  [RID is chaired by former Lt. Governor of New York, Dr. Betsy McCaughey.  Dr. McCaughey has been a strong patient advocate since 2004 and has been very effective in raising public awareness of the problem of Hospital-acquired Infections.  We encourage you to visit RID’s website for more information:]

In Surviving a Hospital Stay we interact with RID’s “15 Steps” article, providing you with supplemental information and opinion that will hopefully help you further reduce the risk of infection should you or a loved one find it necessary someday to spend time in a hospital setting.