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Hospital-Acquired Infections: How Common are They?

Hospital-acquired infections are a serious concern for patients, but not many understand how common such infections are, the risks, how wide-spread infection can be prevented and what recourse is available for those who are injured. Here, the medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos discuss the causes and effects of hospital-acquired infections.

What are Hospital-Acquired Infections?

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are invasions of an individual’s body tissues by damage-causing organisms, such as bacteria or viruses, that are developed during a patient’s time in a hospital or medical facility. According to CDC statistics, one in every twenty-five-people hospitalized on any given day acquire an infection. While hospitals across the United States have reinvigorated efforts to reduce occurrence of HAIs, they are still a serious threat to the health and safety of every patient.

Most Common Hospital-Acquired Infections

Many HAIs are associated with the use of invasive devices or procedures. While these devices and procedures are beneficial for improving and prolonging the lives of patients, they can also harbor dangerous bacteria, fungi or viruses that can cause serious, and potentially widespread infection. Surgery sites, or areas where surgical incisions are made, are particularly vulnerable to infection.

According to the most recent HAI data available, the CDC cites the most common HAIs as:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI)
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI)
  • Select surgical site infections (SSI)
  • Hospital-onset Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia (bloodstream infections).

In past years, ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) has also been of serious concern.

How Can Hospital-Acquired Infections Be Prevented?

According to a Consumer Reports study, hospitals do not need to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent outbreaks of infection; rather, two basic practices can make major differences in patient safety. The first is responsible antibiotic use. Research has suggested that liberal use of antibiotics in hospitals can lead to the creation of “super-bacteria,” which are often then immune to subsequent antibiotic treatments. Responsible antibiotic practices, including a 30% reduction in antibiotic use—overseen by a pharmacist trained in infectious diseases—can reduce the rates of some infections, such as C. difficile, by twenty-five percent.

Proper hygienic practices are also critical to the prevention of hospital-acquired infections. Hospitals with the lowest rates of infection report dedicating high levels of time to sanitizing patient’s rooms and hospital surfaces, sometimes several times throughout the day. The use of face masks, gloves and hospital gowns is also associated with decreased risks of infection transmission.

Legal Recourse Available for Patients Afflicted with an HAI

If an individual who is or was recently hospitalized becomes infected by an HAI, they may be entitled to compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. This is especially true when there is evidence that the negligence of hospital staff contributed to the spread or development of the infection, or that the hospital was aware of the infection but did not take the appropriate steps to mitigate it.

A patient may have a meritorious medical malpractice claim if they experience injury due to negligence on the part of a healthcare professional. If a patient acquires an infection due to unsanitary hygienic practices, inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions or any other negligent and preventable cause, it is critical to contact an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice cases. The victim advocate attorneys at The Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos have years of experience handling medical malpractice cases, and are eager to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.