If you go to the hospital and happen to catch MRSA, the assumption is you will be treated for it and that will be the end of the story. Unfortunately, we’re learning that catching MRSA in the hospital is often just the beginning of the story, and not a pretty one at that. Specifically, “successfully” treated MRSA patients are almost 50% more likely to die in the year after their release from hospital compared to similar patients who never had MRSA.
This was the conclusion of a recent US study that followed the progress of 3,592 MRSA patients after they were released from hospital. They were matched to a second group of 3,592 patients, the difference being that these patients never had MRSA. The results: Patients with MRSA hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) were 49% more likely to die within a year of their release from hospital compared to the non-MRSA patients.
The researchers offer two reasons for this: “First, the increased risk of death may be caused by recurrent infections, which are common in patients with MRSA infection. Second, recent evidence suggests that Staphylococcus aureus HAIs can lead to long-term disabilities (e.g., chronic ventilator dependence, dialysis-dependent end-stage renal disease), which may also increase the risk of death.”
Moreover, death after discharge isn’t the only consequence of a MRSA HAI. For example, other studies have found with patients surviving to discharge, 1 in 4 will require multiple re-admissions for complications due to their MRSA infection. And surgery within 30 days as well as admission to an ICU were also associated with MRSA infection.
The results of the US study alone, say researchers, “underscore the importance of [hospital] interventions designed to reduce the transmission of MRSA and the need to consider long-term outcomes when evaluating the economic impact of such interventions.”
Here’s the thing: we know how to intervene. Take the case of Canada’s Vancouver General Hospital, who were determined to cut down on the number of infections associated with major surgery. So they engaged in a year-long non-antibiotic project – thus not contributing to the rising plague of antibiotic resistance – involving more than 5,000 surgical patients. Using a combination of photodisinfection technology and chlorhexidine wipes they reduced surgical site infections by 39% and the number of readmissions due to SSIs from 4 to 1.25 cases per month. Their effort saved the hospital more than $1 million in costs.
For this work they were awarded the Innovation Award of Excellence by the International Consortium for Prevention & Infection Control which is endorsed by the World Health Organization. And from BC Minister of Health Terry Lake they earned this accolade: “Congratulations to the Vancouver General Hospital team on this significant recognition of your work as leaders in the area of infection control. This achievement is a great example of how we are turning to innovation throughout the health system as a way of enhancing patient care and safety, while reducing costs.”
So we can do it that way. Or we can continue to send the MRSA-affected patients home … and wait for them, like MRSA itself, to come back.
The choice is ours.