Study: Hospital Acquired Infections Cost Nearly $10 Billion Annually

hospital_infections_cost_billionsSome serious infections actually originate at hospitals and cost billions of dollars in medical treatments each year.

A new study has revealed that hospital acquired infections (HAI) contracted during medical treatment cost about $9.8 billion annually, according to research just published in JAMA Internal Medicine, according to CBSNews.com. The research team looked at published data from 1998 through April 2013; costs were adjusted for inflation into 2012 dollars.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that, in 2009, some one out of 20 hospital patients contracts an HAI during treatment, according to CBSNews.com. The JAMA report indicated that surgical site infections are tied to most of the costs—one-third of the total. Individual surgical site infections added about $20,785 to the patient’s medical bills. Infections of the bloodstream tied to central lines were not as common, but much more expensive to treat—about $45,814 per case. Pneumonia associated with a ventilator, urinary tract infections resulting from catheter use, and the particularly virulent C. difficle were also to blame, noted CBSNews.com.

Study authors suggest that a clearer understanding of the costs to resolve HAI infections might help the health care community in putting more money toward infection prevention. Some prevention programs are being tested and the CDC has collaborated with a number of hospitals and intensive care units in Pennsylvania and Michigan in an effort to disseminate some steps that have led to a reduction in catheter-associated bloodstream HAIs by two-thirds, according to CBSNews.com.

Should all hospitals adopt the CDC test program and reach these results, it said that about 20,000 people would be saved and health care costs would be slashed by about $4-6 billion. According to the CDC, about 1.7 million HAIs take place in United States hospitals, which lead to about 99,000 patient deaths, CBSNews.com reported.

We previously wrote that an unnamed surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was linked to an outbreak of hospital staph that infected five cardiac patients. The surgeon suffered from an inflammation on his hand at the time that he implanted replacement heart valves into five patients, according to a prior NBC Los Angeles report. Although the surgeon wore gloves during the procedure, the gloves developed microscopic tears, the hospital said. These tears, said Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, resulted in the infection being passed to at least five patients who then became infected with the Staphylococcus epidermidis bacteria.

According to the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, Staphylococcus epidermidis (S. epidermidis) is one of several hospital-acquired blood infections and is resistant to quinolones, particularly to ciprofloxacin (Cipro); resistance to vancomycin has been reported and several reports indicate that vancomycin and other glycopeptide antibiotics lose their efficacy against S. epidermidis organisms embedded in the biofilm environment, which is found on the surface of medical devices.

We’ve long reported on the escalating issues with Staphylococcus infections, specifically MRSA, a type of staph that causes infections resistant to most antibiotics and which has sickened tens of thousands of Americans annually in recent years. Without treatment or with incorrect diagnosis and treatment, MRSA spreads rapidly, leading 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.

About 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA occur annually in the U.S., according to the CDC; most occur in hospitals and other health-care settings. In the U.S., MRSA kills some 20,000 people annually.

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