Hospital-Acquired Infections

Incidence of Hospital-Acquired Infections

Approximately 36 million people are admitted to hospitals every year.  Of these patients, 2 million of them annually will acquire an infection while being treated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Not only are these infections dangerous, but they can also be deadly.  According to the CDC, over 80,000 patients will die from complications that arise as a result of these infections.  Human error is the cause of many of these hospital-acquired infections.  Failure of healthcare workers to properly sterilize equipment that comes into contact with patients contributes to very serious infections.  Many infections could be prevented if healthcare workers simply washed their hands before touching patients.

Hospital-acquired infections not only are of great concern to public safety, but they are also very costly, too.  According to the CDC, hospital-acquired infections cost the American public nearly $5 billion in healthcare costs each year.

One particularly dangerous infection called, clostridium difficile, is on the rise in hospitalized children.  The infection can damage the lining of the colon, resulting in surgery to remove all or part of the colon and sometimes death.  This particular infection is becoming more common in adults too, as a result of the overuse of antibiotics.

Who is At Risk for Hospital-Acquired Infections?

Patients who have to wait in the hospital for elective surgeries are at an especially increased risk for infections.  According to a recent study in the Journal of American College for Surgeons, each day a hospital patient stays in the hospital waiting for surgery, their chance of acquiring an infection such as sepsis increases. Researchers found that the rate of infection was about 6 percent in patients who had no delay, but rose to nearly 7 percent after one day, more than 9 percent after two to five days, and more than 18 percent after six to 10 days.

How Do I Avoid Hospital-Acquired Infections?

When you are a patient in a hospital you hope that you can rely on the medical professionals to provide you with the best care possible.  However, the reality is that you need to take a more active role in your medical care.  Here are some tips for avoiding hospital-acquired infections:

  • Make sure that all of your questions are answered.
  • Trust your instincts.  If something doesn’t seem right, speak up for yourself.
  • Always make sure that medical staff and visitors wash their hands before touching you.  It is important to keep your hands clean, as well.
  • Urinary catheters and other tubes can cause infections.  Staff must remove these items as soon as they are no longer needed. Tthe longer they stay in, the greater the chance is for acquiring an infection.
  • Thousands of people die each year in the United States because of antibiotic-resistant infections they contracted in hospitals.  Misuse of antibiotics can result in antibiotic-resistance.  It is very important to only use antibiotics when necessary.

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