A hospital stay could prove harmful to your health – or even fatal. Some 48,000 patients die annually from pneumonia or blood poisoning picked up in the hospital, according to a recent research study. And hospital-acquired illnesses translated into 2.3 million extra patient days in hospitals, at a cost of $8.1 billion in 2006, according to the study from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy at Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The research study is one of the first to detail the ever-worsening problem of hospital-acquired illness. It notes that hospital-acquired infections are adding to the spiraling cost of health care in the United States. Some 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections are diagnosed each year, researchers said.
Healthcare-associated infections are infections that patients acquire during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions within a healthcare setting. Healthcare-associated infections are one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC is committed to helping all Americans receive the best and safest care when they are treated at a hospital or other healthcare facility.
The blood infection sepsis killed one-fifth of the patients who contracted it following surgery, according to the study which was reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The researchers looked at hospital discharge records from 69 million patients who stayed at U.S. hospitals between 1998 and 2006, and found that the patients who got sepsis after surgery stayed on average 11 days longer, at a cost of about $32,900 per patient. Patients who caught pneumonia in the hospital stayed an additional two weeks at a cost of $46,400. More than 11 percent of the pneumonia patients died, according to the researchers.
The Center for Disease Control reports on the nature of the healthcare-associated infections. Of these infections:

  • 32 percent of all healthcare-associated infection are urinary tract infections
  • 22 percent are surgical site infections
  • 15 percent are pneumonia (lung infections)
  • 14 percent are bloodstream infections

Handwashing, improved hygiene, and screening patients as they check in are effective measures to prevent infection, but are hard to enforce, studies have shown.

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