MRSA Study Finds Screening Saves Money

Screening patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) for <"">methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) produces cost savings for the entire hospital, according to a study using a statistical simulation model and that appears in next month’s issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

“This study presents evidence of the cost savings from implementing a program that targets the ICU population but that has an effect that is hospital-wide” said APIC.

Conducted by a team of researchers at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the study’s goal was to determine the costs per hospital admission to screen ICU patients for MRSA infection and isolating those patients who tested positive. The team found that even under the most conservative assumptions, screening would be cost-neutral if early detection of MRSA would lead to a reduced rate of MRSA infection and transmission within the hospital. Screening could result in savings of almost $500 per hospital admission.

“This study presents evidence of the cost savings from implementing a program that targets the ICU population but that has an effect that is hospital-wide,” said Dr. Nyman and colleagues. “Although we find that this program pays for itself through the MRSA infections prevented, it is important that hospitals also consider how this type of program fits into their overall institutional, infection-prevention programs and realize that this intervention is only one of many alternative interventions that are designed to prevent healthcare-associated infections,” he added.

The authors contend that this approach could complement other strategies to further reduce the incidence of MRSA infection. “We owe it to the patients to continue to assess and improve our preventive strategies,” concluded the team.

MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can lead to severe infections and is associated with approximately 19,000 deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 2006 survey conducted by APIC showed that 46 out of every 1,000 inpatients were either infected or colonized with MRSA, a rate eight times higher than previous estimates. The annual cost to treat MRSA in hospitalized patients is estimated at $3.2 to 4.2 billion.

We have long been writing about the increase being seen in <"">hospital-acquired infections like MRSA, which is now being seen in the number of children hospitalized each year with the dangerous, often deadly, drug-resistant staph infection.

Symptoms of MRSA infection include skin or muscle infections; MRSA is carried on the skin or in the nose and can affect others, with MRSA carriers exhibiting no symptoms. MRSA can be dangerous if it reaches the bloodstream or organs because the infection spreads rapidly and can lead to respiratory failure and surgeries, attacking vital organs like the lungs and heart. Survivors are not always returned to their pre-MRSA condition, losing limbs, hearing, and full use of damaged organs. For instance, well-known but not widely publicized, patients surviving MRSA often require amputations to cure infections.

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