This year alone I know five people who entered the hospital for surgery and then became terribly ill with hospital acquired infections (HAIs), also called nosocomial infections. One person I know had a second HAI after surviving the first one. Is it unusual to know this many people, or is the problem getting worse and worse?
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, recently reported some interesting facts about nosocomial infections. The new statistics in this annual report are scary for anyone spending time in a hospital setting but especially for elderly patients:
- Postoperative sepsis, or bloodstream infections, are up by 8 percent.
- Postoperative catheter-associated urinary tract infections are up by 3.6 percent.
- Rates of selected infections due to medical care increased by 1.6 percent.
According to a an April 13, 2010, AHRQ press release, there is some hope for gaining control over these infections. “Over 100 participating hospital intensive care units in Michigan have been able to keep the rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections to near zero, 3 years after adopting standardized procedures. The project, conducted by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association Keystone Center, involved the use of a comprehensive unit-based safety program to reduce these potentially lethal infections.”
Some interesting links with good information about nosocomial infections and prevention:
- 10 Ways to Stave Off Hospital Superbugs and Other Nasty Germs, May 25, 2009, Scientific American
- Preventing Hospital Infections, How Stuff Works
- A Checklist to Prevent Infection, Consumer’s Reports Health.org
- Watch Jon Stewart interview Dr. Atul Gawande @ the Safe Patient Project website in the interview Stewart wonders, “What if we classified hospital infections as terrorists?”
- 10 Steps to Preventing Hospital Infections, October 27, 2009, Wall Street Journal
- Doctor Leads Quest for Safer Ways to Care for Patients, March 8, 2010, New York Times