Healthcare-Associated Infections: Definition, Causes, and Risk Factors
Hospital-acquired infections (also referred to as healthcare-associated infections) are infections patients get while they are receiving medical treatment at a healthcare facility like a hospital.
What Causes Healthcare-Associated Infections?
Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) can occur in various circumstances. Common causes of hospital infections include:
- Contaminated medical equipment
- Poor sanitary practices by healthcare professionals
- Improper use or maintenance of catheters and ventilators
- Faulty air conditioning systems
- Understaffing issues
- Overcrowded hospitals
What Are the Risk-Factors for Hospital-Acquired Infections?
Anyone receiving medical care within a healthcare facility is at risk of contracting an HAI. However, some patients are more at risk than others, specifically:
- Young children
- Elderly patients
- Immuno-comprised individuals
Your risk also increases if you are admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) or certain inpatient wards. Other risk factors include:
- The length of the hospital stay
- The use of certain medical equipment
- The patient’s history of antibiotic use
Healthcare-Associated Infections Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI). CDC research surrounding HAIs and the effects of COVID-19 on HAIs reveals that: in 2020, there were significant increases in certain bacterial infections nationally. The most significant increases occurred in October, November, and December of 2020, specifically:
- Central bloodstream infections (CLABSI) increased 47% in all location types. In ICUs, CLABSI increased 65%, while select inpatient wards experienced an increase of 16%. Central bloodline infections occur when bacteria or germs get into a patient’s bloodstream via their central line.
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) increased 19% in all location types. However, in ICUS, these infections increased by 30%.
- Ventilator-associated events (VAE), like ventilator-associated respiratory infections and pneumonia, increased 45% across all location types. VAEs in ICUS increased 44%, while adult inpatient wards experienced an increase of 35%.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all faced unprecedented trials. Hospitals experienced an overwhelming amount of patient influxes, staff and equipment shortages, and stress. While we cannot ever adequately thank them for their sacrifices, hospital infections are avoidable.
Hospital infection prevention rests in the hands of healthcare facilities and their staff. Procedures and proper training should be implemented to prevent HAIs.
If you or someone you love has developed an infection because of your medical care, you may have legal recourse. You should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.Attorney David Kates has a proven track record of helping his clients get millions of recoveries in settlements and jury verdicts. Known for his compassion and persistence, David Kates offers his clients personalized legal aid. For a case consultation, call (718) 866-3664 or contact him online.