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Infections common for hospital patients

Most of us go to a hospital to get help for a condition or to have an operation to help us, but did you know, according to a new study published this week by the New England Journal of Medicine, one in twenty-five patients who entered a hospital in 2011 acquired an infection during their hospital stay.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Patients acquired some 721,800 infections at hospitals that year. Of those infected, about 75,000 died.” The study did not, however, identify whether or not the infection actually led to the patient’s death or contributed to the death.

Most common patients to get infections


Not all patients were equally at risk for infection. According to the study, Pneumonia and surgical-site infections were the most common types of infection, accounting for an estimated 22% of all infections. Other common infections included “gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections and infections of the bloodstream.”

Medical experts admit that this study highlights the “grim reality” that going into the hospital for medical treatment can increase your risk for infections, but they also claim the study shows hospitals are making progress stopping deadly infections.

For instance, the CDC estimated that there were an estimated 1.7 million health care-associated infections and 155,668 infected-patient deaths in 2002. The CDC also notes that for this data they were able to substantiate that 98,987 of those deaths were caused by an infection or the infection contributed to the death.

Medical experts also argue they have made significant progress decreasing specific infections. For instance, the CDC notes that between 2008 and 2012, hospitals were able to reduce the number of bloodstream infections from central lines by 44%. This improvement was made simply by requiring hospitals to adopt and follow a simple checklist which outlined the best practices for this procedure.

Unfortunately, some infections have also become more severe. For instance, there are not at antibiotic resistant infections which have increased in the last few years. According to the CDC, these infections have accounted for approximately 23,000 deaths on average each year.

Improvement to reduce infections still needed


So while experts at the CDC note that real progress has been made, there are still improvements which can be made. Experts know that everyone is not doing a perfect job nor are they doing everything they should be doing every time they do it. There are also still some procedures which must be managed more effectively.

Hospital infection rates vary by hospital


Also concerning is that infection rates at certain hospitals vary so much across the United States.

"Even though we've had great success nationally, there still are pockets of hospitals that have rates of infection that are several times the national average. The reality is that oftentimes there's very little that's being done about it," says Dr. Peter Pronovost, the director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins. "There's no accountability for a hospital that has very high infection rates, and my sense is, there absolutely needs to be."
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