A new study finds that about 48,000 Americans die from infections acquired in the hospital.
These are not infections that individuals would have caught had they not been hospitalized, says the study from Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
Researcher, Ramanan Laxminarayan, PhD, MPH, a fellow with the group, tells Web MD, “It is a staggering number and one that does not have to be.”
Laxminarayan says when a patient dies of pneumonia, for example, the family may not consider that the infection came from the hospital setting as quickly as they would if the patient contracted HIV.
The cost to the nation was approximately $8.1 billion in 2006 alone, according to the study released Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Hospital infections have been difficult to get a handle on and to separate from the illness and injury that requires hospitalization in the first place.
For this study, researchers analyzed data from a database of hospital records of 69 million patients in 40 states between 1998 and 2006.
Often infections come from the use of catheters and ventilators. Staph is a common infection, but the emerging antibiotic resistant strain, MRSA, is becoming more common.
MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin, which is in the class of antibiotics called beta-lactams.
Intensive care units put in five million lines a year and line infections are considered a routine complication. Statistics show after 10 days, four percent of lines become infected, translating to about 80,000 people a year. They are fatal between five and 28 percent of the time.
After 10 days on a ventilator, approximately six percent develop bacterial pneumonia.
Complications can mean additional hospitalization and cost, and the chances of survival drop sharply.
For example, patients who develop pneumonia after surgery, thought to be preventable, stayed in the hospital an extra 14 days at a cost of about $46,000. In 11 percent of the cases a patient dies from the pneumonia infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates hospital-acquired infections are associated with about 99,000 deaths per year. It calculates deaths to include those infections caused by, rather than associated with, hospital infections. Extending the Cure study
The Laxminarayan study appears in the February 22 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine,
Johns Hopkins researcher, Peter Pronovost, MD, tells WebMD that the Laxminarayan study provides hard numbers to tell the story of how many patients hospital-acquired infections actually kill each year.
Pronovost is considered a world expert on hospital acquired infections. He and his colleagues promote a simple safety checklist within hospitals. A team approach is important so everyone is onboard from the nursing assistants to senior surgeons.
Among his recommendations:
* Ask about the hospital’s rate of bloodstream infections. Ideally it should be one or below infection per 1.000 catheter days
* Ask about the hospital’s effort to prevent infections
* Ask if they use the Pronovost checklist when inserting central line catheters
* Ask about the hospital policy on washing hands. Ideally every clinician should wash their hands each time they enter a patient room.
* Encourage the removal of the catheter as soon as possible. Ask daily if you still need it.
* If in doubt - ask. If the hospital cannot tell you the infection rate, Pronovost says it is not doing enough.
Pronovost’s recent study appears in the February 4 online edition of the British Medical Journal.
An investigation by the Seattle Times looked at the failure of hospitals in Washington State to contain MRSA and found no consistent policy of screening for carriers or the live infection.
The “Culture of Resistance” series took into account hospital records in an effort to find out why this infection is mysteriously spreading at an alarming rate. #