Hospital Infections Kill Nearly 50,000 a Year

The above is a headline from the February 23rd, 2010 issue of the New York Daily News. The article reports on a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on February 22, 2010. The study and resultant articles point out that approximately 48,000 patients die each year from pneumonia or blood poisoning picked up in hospitals.

In this study, hospital discharge records were looked at on 69 million patients who were in hospitals in 40 US states between 1998 and 2006. The records were examined to look for blood infections or pneumonia. Problems of these types that were acquired from outside the hospital were excluded, so that the data only showed problems resulting from a stay at the hospital.

The results of this large study brought forth some alarming data. The study revealed that hospital-acquired illnesses were responsible for 2.3 million extra patient days in hospitals. These extra days in a hospital resulted in a cost of $8.1 billion in the year 2006 alone. Overall, 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections are diagnosed every year.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, spokesperson for Resources for the Future, the group that sponsored the study, reacted to the high rates of infection by saying, “In many cases, these conditions could have been avoided with better infection control in hospitals.”

One of the researchers on the study, Anup Malani, from the University of Chicago, added, “That’s the tragedy of such cases. In some cases, relatively healthy people check into the hospital for routine surgery. They develop sepsis because of a lapse in infection control and they can die.”

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