Most don’t think about hospitals as a source of infection, but rather a place where disease and illness may be treated. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one out of every 20 patients hospitalized will contract a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) as a result of receiving medical care for another condition.
Although many patients do recover, there are some who develop complications and even lose their lives. In cases in which a medical professional or facility acted negligently to cause or leave the patient susceptible to infection, liability for any injuries or damages may lie with the responsible party.
5 Types of Hospital-Acquired Infections
Surgical-site infections are one common type that patients may acquire. The less serious kind occurs on the surface of the area where the procedure took place. Generally, these can be treated easily.
It becomes more serious and potentially life-threatening when the infection spreads to other tissue or organs. In some cases, a patient may need to undergo yet another surgery to treat the infection.
Another type of HAI is ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). This type of infection develops in the lungs of patients who are on a ventilator. Bacteria can enter through the tube that goes into the nose, mouth or a hole in the neck.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by a urinary catheter are another common type of HAI. The CDC reports that 75 percent of UTIs acquired in a hospital are caused by a catheter, which is a tube placed into the bladder through the urethra. The risk of developing a UTI increases the longer the catheter is used.
Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) result in thousands of patients losing their lives every year. CLABSI is acquired through a central line, which is a tube that is placed into a patient’s vein to deliver medication, fluids or to take blood. The areas where a central line might be inserted include the groin, neck and chest.
While similar to IVs that may be used in the short-term, central lines go into a large vein and are often there for a long period of time (i.e., patients in ICU); this can increase the risk of a CLABSI.
Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections are another possible HAI. The CDC notes that C. diff may cause diarrhea that is associated with about 14,000 deaths every year in the U.S.
Patients who acquire C. diff may experience not only diarrhea, but also nausea, abdominal pain and fever. Although antibiotics may be used to treat C. diff, in more severe cases the infected part of the intestines may need to be removed.
Determining If an Infection Was Caused by Medical Malpractice
Certain patients may be at greater risk of developing an HAI. Factors that may increase risk include patients who are very young or much older, other medical diseases and conditions, and having a compromised immune system.
With or without these risk factors, it’s important to understand that malpractice does not cause all HAIs. There would need to be evidence that shows appropriate measures weren’t taken to prevent an infection (such as a healthcare provider not washing his or her hands) or a failure to take other precautions (such as not sterilizing medical tools or devices).
HAI can lead to an extended length of time in the hospital or the necessity of a second surgery, resulting in further medical bills. It also can cause undeserved emotional and physical pain. With help from a medical malpractice attorney, patients who acquire an infection as a result of a healthcare worker’s negligence may recover these damages through a malpractice claim.
A medical malpractice attorney at The Becker Law Firm can help if a healthcare provider’s negligence caused an infection and you want to file a medical malpractice claim.