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Hospital Infections and Surgical Infections Cause Serious Injury and Death

Infections ocurring during a hospitalization kill 99,000 people every year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even more dramatically, these same statistics reveal that each year over 1.7 million people in the U.S. develop an infection as a complication of their hospitalization. Obviously, these infections, which can include staphylococcus (“staph”), often leave a patient far worse off after a hospitalization or surgery than they were before. These statistics show that in cases where a patient dies or is paralyzed from an infection following surgery (some types of infections can result in abscesses that can impinge nerves) or requires surgery or other lengthy treatment, it is not unreasonable to have an experienced medical malpratice attorney review the the medical records to determine if the hospital used the proper antibiotcs and adhered to infection-control measures.

Infection cases are not necessarily easy to prove. In surgical cases alone there are three widely-accepted infection-control measures that need to be evaluated: (1) were preventative antibiotics given in the hour before surgery; (2) was the right antibiotic chosen; and (3) when was the antibiotic stopped after surgery. Infection rates are lower in patients who receive the correct antibiotic for their situation during the hour prior to surgery. However, if the antibiotic is continued more than 24 hours after surgery, the patient can develop bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, which means that if the patient were to develop an infection, it would be more dangerous than if the patient had never recieved the antibiotics.

If you are reading this and are getting ready to be hospitalized or have a surgery, you are probably wondering how you can be sure your hospital takes the steps necessary to reduce infections. I suggest looking at the hospital comparison website of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is a government agency that, among other fuctions, tracks infections at hospitals across the country. The CMS website allows the public to see safety data for hospitals, to include information on infection prevention measures. For instance, by using this website, you can learn how many Philadelphia hospitals, such as Albert Einstein Medical Center, Hahnemann University Hospital, Hospital of University of Pennsylvania (“HUP”), Temple University Hospital and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, performed in 2006 relative to the state and national averages. In general, these 5 hospitals did well when compared to the national and state averages in the three infection-control measures. I would encourage anyone who is going to have surgery (especially an elective procedure where you have the time to conduct research on the facility you want to operate on you) to look at the data on infection control measures. Some hospitals nationwide fall far below the national average and given that infections can be fatal, these statistics really can be a life-saver.

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