Hospital-related infections continue to plague the U.S. healthcare system, according to a new study from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, released Wednesday, says nearly four percent of all hospital patients acquire an infection from their medical care. Of those patients who do get an infection, just over 10 percent die.
“Lung infections, gut infections, infections related to surgery, infections related to urinary catheters are at the top of things that are causing problems for hospital patients,” said Michael Bell, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.
The study compiled 2011 data from 183 hospitals across the country. That year, about 721,800 infections occurred in 648,000 hospital patients, according to the study.
While Bell said there may have been other contributing factors in the nearly 75,000 patients who died with infections during hospitalizations, CDC director Dr. Tom Friedn said “today and every day, more than 200 Americans with heath care-associated infections will die during their hospital stay.”
The most common infections were pneumonia (22 percent) and those stemming from surgeries (22 percent), followed by gastrointestinal infections (17 percent), urinary tract infections (13 percent and bloodstream infections (10 percent).
In the case of pneumonia, Bell said the study showed more than half the cases reported did not occur in intensive care unit patients – a surprise, he said.
Bell said the new study will help the CDC tease apart what’s causing infections and how to better prevent them.
“This is an opportunity for us to look at the places that we’re not routinely measuring and say which of these things needs to have that level of attention directed toward it next,” Bell said.
A second study also released by the CDC Wednesday, shows the country is making improvements in preventing a handful of hospital-borne infections the agency has tracked for some time.
The study shows bloodstream infections related to central lines have nearly been cut in half since 2008. Surgical infections are also down nearly 20 percent in the same timeframe.
Georgia has seen similar improvements with surgical infections, but lags behind improvements in preventing bloodstream infections, cutting those only by a third.
Denise Flook of the Georgia Hospital Association said the study shows Georgia is improving, but there’s still room for more, especially related to preventing infections that stem from central bloodstream lines.
“We’re working with hospitals looking at those insertion practices and also the line maintenance,” Flook said. “That’s where we have opportunity, and that’s where we’re seeing improvement.”
Occurrences of urinary tract infections related to catheters ticked up very slightly on the state and national level, and something the CDC is “working on very specifically,” said Bell.
The CDC said none of the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; or Puerto Rico performed better than the nation on all infection types it tracks.
The center’s advice for preventing infections: Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to wash his or hands.
Additionally, the CDC published a study about their most recent research into hospital-acquired infections in the New England Journal of Medicine (subscription required). A summary of their findings is available online.