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Most Common Hospital-Acquired Infections In The U.S.

Patients go to the hospital or clinic to get help for their medical conditions. Unfortunately, showing up to a healthcare facility puts the patient at risk of getting an infection that they may not have had if they had stayed at home. Infections that spread through medical facilities can cause serious injury or death. 

What are the Most Common Healthcare-Associated Infections?

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a multistate survey of healthcare-associated infections found the following major types of infection by surveyed patients: 

  1. Pneumonia: 24.3%
  2. Surgical-site infection: 24.3%
  3. Gastrointestinal infection: 19%
  4. Urinary tract infection: 14.4%
  5. Primary bloodstream infections: 11.1%
  6. Eye, ear, nose, throat or mouth infection: 6.2%
  7. Lower respiratory tract infection: 4.4%
  8. Skin and soft-tissue infection: 3.5%
  9. Cardiovascular system infection: 1.3%
  10. Bone and joint infection: 1.1%
  11. Central nervous system infection: 0.9%
  12. Reproductive tract infection: 0.7%
  13. Systemic infection: 0.2%

The surveys were conducted in 183 hospitals across multiple states. Of the 11,282 patients surveyed, 451 had one or more HAI. Based on these estimates, researchers estimated up to 721,800 healthcare-associated infections in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2011. 

Hospital-acquired infections (HAI), also known as healthcare-associated infections, are acquired infections that are not present at the time of admission. These infections can come from catheters, tainted surgical instruments, or bacteria in the air. 

Hospitals are places that naturally have a number of sick people, often with bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Hospitals have to deal with trying to keep hundreds of rooms, hallways, beds, and surgical instruments clean and sanitized. Patients may be more likely to get an infection at a hospital than at home.

Common Pathogens in Hospitals and Nursing Homes

Clostridium difficile (C. diff), was the most common pathogen, involved in more than 12% of HAIs. This common spore-forming bacteria can cause intestinal infections, including colitis. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), C. diff caused 29,000 deaths in 2011. Of the C. diff cases, an estimated 24% occurred in hospitals and 40% occurred in nursing homes or community health settings. 

Not All Infections Are Known

According to the study, much of the information about HAIs is limited because of the information hospitals gather and report. Many hospitals limit reporting to certain types of infection, such as device-associated, surgical site, and common C. diff or MRSA infections. Hospitals may need to report more types of HAIs in order for the public to understand the risks of hospital stays. 

Patients may also not be aware of the common risks associated with HAIs or other risks of medical care because of how many malpractice cases are settled. Medical malpractice settlements are often subject to a nondisclosure agreement, where information of the case is not released. These settlements are also beneficial for the doctor and hospitals who do not have to admit to any wrongdoing as part of the agreement. 

If you believe that you were infected while in the hospital, you may be a victim of malpractice. The Gilman & Bedigian legal team can answer your questions and concerns. To speak with a member of our medical malpractice team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs BedigianBriggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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