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Infection Deaths From U.S. Hospitals

February 23, 2010

A new study has shown that nearly 50,000 U.S. medical patients die every year of blood poisoning or pneumonia picked up in hospitals, AFP reported.

The study, led by researchers from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy at Washington-based Resources for the Future, showed that hospital-acquired sepsis and pneumonia in 2006 claimed 48,000 lives, led to 2.3 million extra patient-days in hospital and cost 8.1 billion dollars.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday, said the two hospital-acquired infections — also called nosocomial infections — accounted for about one-third of the 1.7 million infections U.S. patients pick up every year while in the hospital.

Nearly half of the 99,000 deaths a year from hospital-acquired infections reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also likely caused by the two infections.

According to the study, patients who underwent invasive surgery during their initial hospitalization were more likely to pick up a secondary infection while in the hospital, and elective surgery patients were at even higher risk of nosocomial infection.

The researchers estimated that 290,000 patients in U.S. hospitals picked up sepsis, or blood poisoning, during their hospitalization in 2006, and 200,000 developed pneumonia.

The study used the largest database of hospital records in the United States, which covered hospital discharges in 40 states.

It was discovered that hospital-acquired pneumonia extended a patient’s stay in the hospital by 14 days and added some 46,400 dollars to the final price tag, while sepsis extended the time spent in hospital by nearly 11 days and added 32,900 dollars on average to the final bill.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, one of the lead authors of the study, said improving hygiene in clinical settings could prevent the two infections and others picked up in hospitals.

“The magnitude of harm from these infections is deplorable and it is unconscionable that patients continue to experience harm from their interactions with the health system,” said two critical care doctors, in a commentary piece also published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

David Murphy and John Pronovost of Johns Hopkins University’s department of medicine wrote in the commentary: “What is glaringly obvious is that preventable harm remains a substantial problem and that investments in research to reduce these harms are woefully inadequate given the magnitude of the problem.”

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