The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that healthcare-associated infections cost the United States approximately $45 billion and claim the lives of thousands of patients annually. Surveillance of infections have become an enormous challenge for the healthcare systems across the world, and have become increasingly problematic due to antibiotic resistance. So which country is leading the world in this area?
Category: Healthcare-Associated Infections
There are a number of studies that have demonstrated conclusively that eliminating a large percentage of the bacteria in the nose of a patient just prior to a major surgery can reduce the number of surgical site infections (SSIs). The main culprit seems to be Staphylococcus aureus which thrives in the warm, moist undisturbed environment in the nose. Whether it is the highly antibiotic resistant form of S. aureus, MRSA (a known superbug) or the antibiotic susceptible version MSSA, these species of bacteria are responsible for the majority of surgical site infections.
While MSSA is responsible for a greater number of SSIs, MRSA is responsible for the deadly and very costly infections. Some MRSA infections can cost up to $100,000. On average however, SSIs cost anywhere between $11,000 – $35,000, add on average an extra 8 hospital days, and can result in 5 times higher readmission rates. Whichever way one looks at it, SSIs are a huge burden on the medical systems around the world. Some estimates put this cost as much as $10 billion annually in the US alone.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Houston concluded that the items in hotel rooms with the highest levels of bacteria are those that are most commonly touched first upon entering a hotel room . Such items include the TV remote, bedside lamp, and light switch. This new evidence coincides with findings from a similar study conducted in 2009 at the University of Arizona, where researchers concluded that TV remote controls in hospital rooms contained more bacteria than items such as the toilet bowl handle and bathroom door .
Another important aspect of this study’s findings is the fact that the data suggests that bacteria is most likely to be spread from room to room via the janitorial staff. Items that are transported from room to room, including cleaning carts, mops, and sponges were found to contain the highest amounts of bacterial contamination. After losing my father in 2008 to a number of infections including MRSA and C. diff, one of my biggest complaints was the fact that the janitorial staff at the hospital would clean the entire ICU with one bucket and mop, never stopping to change the cleaning solution from room to room. Because C. diff can form spores that are able survive on surfaces for long periods of time, such cleaning mechanisms are essentially causing more harm than good by transporting bacteria from room to room. While this present study focuses on hotel rooms, it still raises the issue of inadvertently transporting bacteria across hospital rooms.
Finally, it now seems that the Ontario hospitals affected by clostridium difficile have gotten the outbreak under control. Hospitals, especially within the Niagara region, noticed a surge in C. difficile cases since May of this year and many struggled to keep the number of serious infections and resulting deaths down.
C. difficile is a superbug that can secrete high levels of toxin. It causes symptoms of severe diarrhea and swelling of the colon, which can burst and result in death from septic shock. C. difficile infections mainly result from eradication of the normal gut flora by antibiotics, and often affect the elderly, patients with weakened immune systems, and patients who have had previous surgery. In many cases, C. difficile spreads in hospitals through contact with fecal matter and can stay hidden in a body without showing symptoms for long periods of time. Once infected with this superbug, patients are forced to suffer from severe dehydration, diarrhea, organ failure, and blood poisoning. Read More
Walking into the hospital is always daunting because it’s confusing and not a place people visit under normal circumstances. So when I went to St. Paul’s last week after my grandpa had open heart surgery I tried to be prepared. I looked up maps so I wouldn’t get lost meeting my sister in the hospital and set off with my “Get Well Soon” balloon in tow. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the ensuing reality check.
As we began our trek to the cardiac unit, my sister insisted we stop at every hand washing station. No, she doesn’t have obsessive compulsive disorder; she works in a hospital so she knows the importance of maintaining proper hygiene.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has created an interactive training video simulation that lets you participate in life-changing infection control decisions. In a program called Partnering To Heal:Teaming Up Against Healthcare-Associated Infections, the video educates viewers on how to prevent some of the most serious healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), such as surgical site infections, from occurring in hospitals.
There are five character options in the simulation-a doctor, a nurse, an infection preventionist, a family member or a third-year medical student. You are completely in control of each person and every decision that you make will change the patient’s life forever. The dramatic and sometimes shocking outcomes allow you to peel back the curtain of medical care to better grasp the impact of your decisions and how they can affect your patient’s health.