Article by: Rosenbaum & Associates, Injury Law
The Shocking Frequency of Hospital Infections
Infection is a huge risk in today’s hospitals, with a report from the United States Centers For Disease Control indicating that a shocking 1 in 25 patients battle hospital-acquired infections (HAI) on any given day. In 2011, a tragic 75,000 patients died due to HAI. The CDC has since taken major steps to reduce the prevalence of infections in healthcare settings. Results are mixed thus far, but statistics indicating a 17 percent decrease in surgical site infections and an 11 percent decrease in catheter-associated urinary tract infections in long-term healthcare facilities are promising.
Despite small signs of progress, hospital infection remains a huge risk in most hospitals — and one of which many patients are entirely unaware. A basic understanding of the prevalence of hospital-borne infections can help patients prepare for hospital stays — and can help those who have suffered due to infection fight back.
Common Types of Infection
Urinary Tract Infections
The CDC reports that urinary tract infections are the most common type of HAI. In hospitals, 75 percent of urinary tract infections can be attributed to catheter use. Risk of infection increases substantially when catheters are not replaced frequently enough.
Surgical Site Infection
If direct skin-to-skin contact occurs during surgery, the patient may develop a surgical site infection. Although these infections are sometimes limited to the skin, they can be more severe and involve the organs or tissues beneath the skin’s surface. According to a study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, surgical site infections have a three percent mortality rate and make up over eight percent of all hospital-acquired infections.
Staph infections are largely spread by skin-to-skin contact, and they may result from insufficient handwashing, lack of proper clothing barriers (such as gloves), or physical contact with an infected patient. Additionally, staph infections can be spread through contact with objects, such as sinks, tables, or chairs. Several types of staph infection exist, but medical professionals are most wary of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is resistant to antibiotics and therefore incredibly difficult to treat. The CDC estimates that MRSA infections occur at an alarming rate of 3.9 per 1,000 patients.
An infection of the lungs that typically appears two days after the patient has been admitted, hospital-acquired pneumonia is often fatal. The infection is most common in patients who have had chest surgery, who use respirators, and especially among those with immune systems weakened as a result of cancer treatments. Hospital-acquired pneumonia can be attributed to neglect if staff members do not wash their hands often enough or if they fail to observe unalert patients while eating — these patients may swallow improperly and get food in their lungs, leading to infection.
Clostridium Difficile Infection
Under ordinary circumstances, clostridium difficile is nothing more than another bacteria residing in the intestines. However, if an infection occurs, the bacteria may grow quickly, releasing harmful toxins that attack the intestines. Infection often occurs in response to gastrointestinal surgeries, although use of antibiotics is also a risk factor. Symptoms of clostridium difficile include abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, and in severe cases, stool with blood or pus.
Who is Most Susceptible to Infection?
While all patients are at risk of infection, some patients are far more vulnerable than others. Young children and elderly patients are notoriously susceptible, but infection also commonly strikes new mothers who have just given birth, cancer patients, and patients who are HIV positive. Chronic conditions can also increase susceptibility to infection. Researchers believe that genetics play a huge role as well, although the genetic abnormalities that increase susceptibility can be difficult to identify. Unfortunately, those who are most susceptible to infection are also the most likely to require hospital visits, leaving them at risk the moment they enter the hospital. Infection can be avoided through exceptional sanitation and adherence to a variety of precautionary measures, but even a small misstep can prove deadly.
Infection and Personal Injury Law
In medical settings, infection can be a sign of negligence, although it can be challenging to Prove. The fact that you or loved one acquired an infection in the hospital does not establish negligence. Infections are a risk with any invasive procedure. Hospitals and employees can be found at fault if there is sufficient evidence pointing to a failure to abide by accepted healthcare practices. However, it remains the burden of the legal team to come up with the preponderance of evidence needed to hold responsible parties accountable and to secure the damages suffering patients so desperately need.
Infection is shockingly prevalent in the hospital environment, and unless healthcare providers are held accountable, the problem is not likely to go away.
The legal team at Rosenbaum & Associates can help you achieve justice and secure the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 today.