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How to Lower Your Risk of Getting Sick in the Hospital

A new study finds that preventable infections you can pick up in the hospital kill nearly 50,000 people a year in the U.S.



How to Lower Your Risk of Getting Sick in the Hospital

Preventing infection is a job for patient, doctor, and visitors.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—You can almost guarantee that a neighborhood homicide or car-accident fatality will make the nightly news. But you probably won't hear about someone dying from a preventable infection he or she caught in the hospital, even though it happens more often than a homicide or car death, according to a new study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. "The most telling thing is how big the numbers are," says study coauthor Anup Malani, PhD, professor of law and Aaron Director Research Scholar at the University of Chicago. The number of people who die because of infections caused by hospitals in the U.S. is more than the number of people who die from AIDS, firearm shootings, and auto accidents. These preventable infections also tax an already-strained healthcare system, costing about $8.1 billion a year.

THE DETAILS: Investigators for Extending the Cure, a project that focuses on antibiotic resistance, analyzed 69 million hospital discharge records from hospitals in 40 states. They focused on two common conditions caused by hospital-acquired infections: sepsis and pneumonia. These conditions are often caused by dangerous microbes, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA. “In many cases, these two conditions could have been avoided with better infection control in hospitals,” says Ramanan Laxminarayan, PhD, principal investigator for Extending the Cure. Sepsis is a serious condition that develops when the bloodstream is overwhelmed with bacteria. In hospital-derived infections, this is often the result of faulty sterilization techniques during surgery. Pneumonia is a severe respiratory infection that, when it is contracted in the hospital, is usually caused by contaminated respirators.

Researchers found that among patients who developed sepsis after surgery, 20 percent died. The condition also resulted in 11 extra days in the hospital on average, and an additional $35,000 in hospital costs for each patient. Hospital-acquired pneumonia resulted in two extra weeks in the hospital and nearly $50,000 in additional costs per patient. In 11 percent of the pneumonia cases, the patients did not survive. "These so-called superbugs are increasingly difficult to treat and, in some cases, trigger infections that ultimately cause the body’s organs to shut down," Malani says.

Read on to learn about specific things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick while in the hospital.

Filed Under: HOSPITALS

Published on: February 25, 2010



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My opinion is that hospitals

My opinion is that hospitals should not have such problems considering the price of medical services. I would rather go to a private methadone treatment center because I know that there I will never have to deal with such problems.

Daughter contracts sepis after normal delivery

After a normal delivery, my very healthy daughter almost died from Sepsis. the hospital refused to take any resposibility for this infection and it did cost $1000's of dollars to treat her, including another hospital stay, a headache that has not gone away (going on 4 months now) and I became a distraught worried caregiver to a newborn for 3 weeks,during my supposed to be "happy new Grandma" visit to my new grandson and my daughter. I live on the East coast and my daughter lives on West. This was a great hardship on both our family. I am thankful my daughter recovered, and am saddened for other families who lose a loved one due to this negligence.

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