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What Are Hospital-Acquired Infections?

Patients visit a hospital when they’re sick and need treatment to get better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes a person is admitted to a hospital only to find that they contract another illness. Unfortunately, around 1.7 million patients get infections at the hospital on an annual basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These infections are called “hospital-acquired” infections (HAI).  These infections can result in sepsis, organ failure, and even death for the patient. It’s sometimes challenging to determine liability after a patient has developed a hospital-acquired infection. Many times, the hospital staff did nothing to contribute to the infection. Sometimes, infections can be caused by a natural reaction to a surgical procedure. This isn’t always the case though. In some cases, hospital-acquired infections are caused by negligent practices by healthcare professionals. This may be when medical negligence is the cause that gives rise to a medical malpractice claim.

Hospital-acquired infections are common, and when treated properly and quickly, they may not be all that dangerous to a patient. But when an infection goes undiagnosed or untreated for too long, conditions like sepsis and septic shock can occur. That’s a big reason why hospitals and other healthcare facilities follow stringent protocols when it comes to the sterility and cleanliness of the treatment environment and why failure to follow safe practices can lead to a medical malpractice case when a patient suffers infection-related harm.  The experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano may be able to help.

Many kinds of bacteria and infections are found in cases of hospital negligence. Some of the most common types include:

  • Surgical site infections can result from a lack of proper sanitation and cleaning during surgery or post-operative care. Infections such as these often involve the skin only but can also be more severe and affect tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted material.
  • Device-related infections can result from unsterile surgical instruments such as IVs, oxygen tubes, and catheters. Complications from device-related infections can cause dangerous health risks, including, pain and irritation, sepsis, organ failure, and death.
  • Urinary tract infections can occur in patients in the hospital and in long-term care facilities who may have a urinary catheter which is a tube inserted into the bladder that drains urine from the bladder. Infections resulting from a urinary catheter are called catheter-associated UTIs, or CAUTIs. According to statistics, 75% of all UTIs in the hospital are CAUTIs, and they are the most common type of healthcare-acquired infection today.
  • Pneumonia is another potential infection in the lungs, frequently referred to as “ventilator-associated pneumonia” (VAP). There are many possible causes for this type of infection. When people are on a ventilator because they need help breathing, they are at risk for developing pneumonia resulting from the exposure of the lungs to bacteria from the tube that may not normally be able to reach the lungs.
  • Blood infection or sepsis is a serious infection and can occur when bacteria are in your bloodstream. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when your body responds to an infection. When the infection-fighting process turns on your body, it can cause organs to function poorly and abnormally. Moreover, sepsis can progress to septic shock. It can cause a drop in blood pressure that can lead to severe organ problems and death. Early treatment with antibiotics and intravenous improves your chance of survival.
  • Staph infections, such as Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff), Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus, and Norovirus. This includes methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which is increasingly common. MRSA has developed a very strong resistance to antibiotic treatment, and if it gets into the urinary tract, the lungs, or the bloodstream, it’s especially dangerous. Staph is a particularly hardy kind of bacteria that is transmitted from person to person and survives on surfaces as well as cloth. Many people carry staph bacteria on them without danger, but when there is a surgical incision or a wound, the bacteria can make its way inside the body creating an abscess. The result may be severe complications or even death.

Hospitals and healthcare providers are responsible for reducing the risk of patients developing hospital-acquired infections.  Hospitals must be kept clean, and the tools and equipment used should always be sterile. Bed linens, water systems, and medical devices should always be cleaned and sterilized, to reduce the risk of patients acquiring an infection.  Healthcare providers should also always wash their hands thoroughly and use proper protocols when intubating patients, inserting a catheter, or drawing blood. These are all procedures in which a patient could easily acquire an infection.

If you or a loved one has been injured by the very people entrusted to take care of a sickness or injury, it’s important to speak to a Syracuse area personal injury attorney today. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, we know how complicated any medical malpractice case is, and we know the specific difficulties that come with proving hospital-acquired infections. We also have the experience necessary to overcome these challenges to get you the full amount of compensation you deserve. The lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano represent injured patients and their families in Syracuse, Rochester, Elmira, Binghamton, Auburn, Ithaca, Oswego, Norwich, Herkimer, Delhi, Cooperstown, Cortland, Lowville, Oneida, Watertown, Oswego, Utica, Canandaigua, Wampsville, Cooperstown, and Lyons. Please call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us via our online form to learn more about your rights.

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