Some care can threaten your health

Posted: Monday, January 16, 2006

At least a third of infections acquired in U.S. hospitals are considered preventable, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sen. Gary Stevens’ bill (SB 208) would require hospitals to make public the rates of occurrence of five categories of infections named in the accompanying article.

Medical sources available on the Internet, including the CDC, define these “nosocomial infections,” a term that literally means infections acquired in a hospital.

According to the CDC, approximately 500,000 surgical site infections occur per year. There are an estimated 27 million surgeries performed in the United States annually.

Pneumonia associated with ventilation — that is, mechanically assisted breathing — is another major source of in-hospital infections, accounting for about 15 percent of all hospital-associated infections. Better than half of those are associated with treatment in intensive care and coronary care units, according to the CDC.

Central line-associated blood infections are related to the use of venous catheters. An estimated 250,000 such infections occur each year in U.S. hospitals. One-eighth to 1/4 of infected patients die, the CDC said.

Urinary tract infections are the leading cause of nosocomial infections, accounting for more than 40 percent of the total reported and affecting an estimated 600,000 patients a year, said the CDC. Most (66-86 percent) follow use of urinary tract catheters, Brief use results in a low number of incidents, but infection is “virtually 100 percent” for patients with urethral catheters draining to open systems used longer than four days. Most infections clear up by themselves and some show no overt symptoms, the CDC reported.

The fifth category delineated in Stevens’ bill provides room for future regulations adopted by the Department of Health and Social Services covering other infection sources.

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