5 Most Dangerous Nosocomial Infections

Nosocomial infections are encountered in hospitals, long-term care settings or other encounters with the health care system. They come from germs passed on by unsanitary equipment, unwashed hands and dirty surfaces, and they enter the body via invasive medical procedures. These infections can lead to serious injury or even death and cost billions of dollars to treat every year. Knowing the most dangerous hospital-acquired infections and how to prevent them can help patients stay safe and build better relationships with their health care providers.

Ventilator-Assisted Pneumonia (VAP)

When hospital patients have difficulty breathing, they are often intubated. This unpleasant procedure involves placing a plastic tube into the windpipe; in an intensive care setting, the tube is often attached to a mechanical ventilator. The machine pumps airs into the patient’s lungs, keeping them alive but also increasing their risk of respiratory infection. This creates the opportunity for pneumonia to creep in through the tubing, leading to possible death.

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Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI)

Urinary tract infections caused by a catheter are one of the most frequent types of infections in hospitals. As with VAP, these infections opportunistically invade the body when medical equipment is left inside the body for an extended period of time. When catheters are placed in unsterile conditions or used for too long of a period, germs are able to enter the body and cause an infection. Because this is such a common problem in health care settings, hospitals are now ranked on the number of CAUTIs their patients acquire. This creates an incentive for administrators to encourage hygienic practices among medical staff.

Clostridium difficile (c-diff)

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control released a report about c-diff. According to their research, close to half a million patients per year contract this infection, and almost 30,000 of them die. This costs the U.S. health care system close to $5 billion annually. The most common way to contract c-diff is using heavy-duty antibiotics that wipe out gut bacteria, allowing invaders like clostridium difficile to take over. It’s especially easy for hospital and long-term care residents to come into contact with c-diff. Once the pathogen has flourished in the digestive system, it can cause deadly diarrhea. The best way for preventing this type of infection is limiting the use of antibiotics.

Surgical Site Infection

Maintaining a sterile field during surgery is imperative for keeping patients healthy. Unfortunately, hospitals don’t always succeed at keeping surgical sites clean and preventing infections. This leads to patients developing fever, swelling and fluid build-up. Without proper treatment, these infections could lead to serious organ damage. Speaking directly to healthcare providers is a key step for patients who want to limit their risk of a surgical site infection.

Central-Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI)

These preventable infections cause thousands of deaths every year in U.S. hospitals. A central line is a semi-permanent opening to a major vein that lets doctors deliver large doses of medication directly to the bloodstream. Because it allows physicians easy access to the patient’s internal systems, it also allows germs to easily get inside. Following sterile procedures at all times is imperative for preventing CLABSIs.

Patients should not have to worry about contracting pneumonia from an unclean catheter or being infected by a provider’s unwashed hands. Hospitals don’t want patients to catch unnecessary infections, either, because they don’t get reimbursed for treating illnesses they caused. Today, both patients and hospitals are working together to avoid dangerous nosocomial infections.