A new study released by the New England Journal of Medicine, and publicized on CNN Health, has revealed that about 1 in every 25 patients seeking treatment at hospitals acquired an infection there in 2011. As shocking as that news might be to you, this information actually shows progress from past estimates, while the grim reality remains that far too many people become infected while seeking medical treatment in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The study included 183 hospitals and 11,282 patients surveyed between May and September 2011, and it found that patients acquired 721,800 infections at hospitals that year. 75,000 of these patients died, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, although the study did not determine whether an infection actually caused or contributed to each of these deaths. It is estimated that there were 1.7 million healthcare associated infections and 155,668 infected patient deaths in 2002, with 98,987 of those deaths involving infection as either a cause or contributing factor to the death.
The most common types of infections were pneumonia and surgical-site infections. Each of these accounted for 22% of all infections, almost half the total. Other infections accounting for significant portion of the overall total include gastrointestinal infections such as C difficile, urinary tract infections and infections of the bloodstream. Despite their presence near the top of the list, bloodstream infections from central lines (lines inserted in the chest into a vein) actually dropped 44% between 2008 and 2012, according to the study. C difficile infections have become more severe and prevalent in the past decade, and more bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistant infections account for at least 23,000 deaths each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Dr. Peter Pronovost, the director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins, recommends patients research their local hospital’s infection rates on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hospital comparison website ahead of time, whenever possible. “These ICU bloodstream infections are often a ‘canary in the coal mine’measure,” says Dr. Pronovost. “In other words, if a hospital gets its act together to focus on safety and get these down, it’s a good marker that they’re working collaboratively, even if you’re not in the ICU.” Dr. Provost also noted that there are still pockets of hospitals that have rates of infection that her several times the national average. He believes that there needs to be accountability for a hospital that has very high infection rates, although there is currently no such accountability.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury or death as a result of a hospital – related infection, or if you believe you have been the victim of medical negligence, contact Stark & Stark at 1-800-535-3425 or starkinjurygroup.com.