Hospital Acquired Infections Are More Common Than You Think

When people become injured or get sick, they go to hospitals for treatment so they can get better and get on with their lives. Unfortunately, being exposed to an extremely dangerous infection or other type of dangerous complication while in a hospital they trust is more common than people think.

There are many different hospital-acquired infections, also known as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), that a person might be exposed to, depending on the treatment they receive. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the most common hospital-acquired infections and whether or not they qualify as medical malpractice.

Common Hospital Acquired Infections:

1. Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSIs)

Central lines are catheters that doctors place in a large vein in the neck, chest, or groin to give medication, fluids, or to collect blood for testing. Central lines are different from the IVs that most people are familiar with, as central lines are placed for a longer period of time (up to several months) and are closer to the heart.

A central line-associated bloodstream infection occurs when a tube is placed in the vein incorrectly, or without being properly cleaned. This can allow germs to enter the body and can even cause potentially deadly blood infections.

CLABSIs result in thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars in added costs to the healthcare system, despite being preventable. Healthcare providers are expected to follow strict protocols to keep the line sterile when they first insert the line and when it’s checked or the dressing is changed.

If you want to avoid this type of infection, the CDC recommends that you not only research the hospital to find out about its CLABSI rate, but also speak up about any concerns that proper protocols weren’t followed, or if the bandage comes off or is wet or dirty. Avoid touching the catheter or tubing, and do not let any visitors touch it either.

Unfortunately, Oregon hospitals reported a significant increase in CLABSIs between 2013 and 2014.

2. Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs)

The most common hospital-acquired infection is a urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infections involving any part of the urinary system, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys.

Among the UTIs acquired in hospitals, around 75% are associated with a urinary catheter, which is a tube inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine. Infections caused this way are called catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

Almost a quarter of hospitalized patients receive urinary catheters during their stay in the hospital. If a urinary catheter is used for too long, the risk of developing a UTI increases. Thankfully, in Oregon, there has been a significant decrease in CAUTIs between 2013 and 2014.

3. Surgical Site Infections (SSIs)

Another common hospital acquired infection is a surgical site infection, or SSI. A surgical site infection can occur if germs get into an area where surgery is being or has been performed. SSIs are often superficial skin-level infections, but some can be much more serious.

The CDC describes three different types of SSI. The first is called a superficial incisional SSI and is an infection occurring just in the area of the skin where the incision was made. The second is called a deep incisional SSI, which occurs beneath the incision area in muscle and tissue surrounding the muscle. The final type is called organ or space SSI. This type refers to an infection of any part of the body other than skin, muscle, and surrounding tissue.

Some common risk factors for getting an SSI include surgeries which last longer than two hours, being elderly or overweight, smoking, weakened immune system, and having cancer or diabetes. To avoid experiencing an SSI, stop smoking and make sure your surgical team is aware of your medical history. Don’t let anyone touch your wound or surgical site, and call your doctor immediately if you develop a fever, pus, redness, heat, pain or tenderness near the wound.

Hospital Acquired Infections and Medical Malpractice

Unfortunately, hospital acquired infections are common. Thankfully, many are caught early and treated without any significant complications experienced by a patient. However, if an HAI is not properly addressed, it can develop into a potentially life-threatening situation.

If you have an HAI as a result of doctor or hospital negligence, you may have a strong case for medical malpractice. However, not all HAIs amount to medical malpractice, and it may take the expertise of a medical malpractice attorney to help you determine the chances of winning a lawsuit. If you have questions about medical malpractice, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield.

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