When medical care is needed, whether at a hospital, clinic, outpatient facility, or nursing home, patients trust that they will receive proper care. Unfortunately, sometimes a patient’s safety is put at risk due to improper care. When steps are missed, equipment is contaminated, or medical negligence occurs at any level, patients can contract an infection.
Infections acquired at heath care facilities can include both hospital and nonhospital settings, including:
- Hospitals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were approximately 722,000 hospital-associated infections that led to 75,000 patient deaths in 2011. Sometimes the infection occurs as a result of contaminated equipment during a surgical procedure, and other times an infection can originate from a medical professional or an undetermined source.
- Nursing homes. The source of the infection at nursing homes sometimes occurs from bed linens or other infected patients; however, staff members can also spread the infection to patients. Unfortunately, nursing homes vary in their infection control standards, which increases a patient’s risk for contracting an infection. When nursing home patients acquire an infection, it can be very serious since they are older and their bodies are frail.
- Outpatient clinics. There are many outpatient facilities such as oncology clinics and outpatient surgical centers in which patients receive medical care and undergo surgical procedures. Because some outpatient facilities don’t have written policies or don’t pay special attention to infection control and prevention, some patients end up contracting bacterial infections.
The Seriousness of Health Care-Acquired Infections
When an infection originates at any one of these health care establishments due to medical negligence, a number of adverse outcomes can be the result. Infections acquired in hospitals and nonhospital settings can cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, infections of the blood stream, and other health problems. Consequently, some hospital-acquired infections can lead to disabling injuries, including:
- Septic shock. When an infection such as pneumonia or bed sores occurs, a person can suffer sepsis, a blood infection caused by bacteria. When someone develops sepsis, it increases the chance of suffering a life-changing effect such as organ dysfunction and amputation. When sepsis goes untreated or is uncontrolled, septic shock can develop, which can lead to death.
- Organ failure. When an infection in the body occurs following surgery, it can lead to the failure of multiple organs, often beginning with the lungs, followed by the liver and kidneys. When a body’s organs start failing in response to an infection, it can lead to death.
- Amputation. When a person acquires an infection in a hospital or nonhospital setting, it is possible that it can impair the body’s blood flow. Consequently, adequate blood and oxygen cannot reach the body’s tissues, resulting in tissue death which can cause amputation. Although many people may need a finger or toe amputated, others may lose an entire arm or leg in order to save the person’s life.
Know the Signs of Sepsis
Because people who are admitted to hospitals or live in nursing homes are at risk for suffering an infection, it is wise to know the signs and symptoms of sepsis in order to save your own life or someone you love. Sepsis Alliance has developed the acronym "SEPSIS" to help people remember key symptoms:
- Shivering and cold, or fever
- Extreme or chronic pain
- Pale skin color
- Sleepy and confused
- I “feel like I might die”
- Short of breath
Because time is of the essence when someone is suffering from an infection that can lead to septic shock and death, it is critical to know these symptoms. We encourage you to share this article with your friends and family on your favorite social media site. You could save a life.
If you believe you or a loved one suffered the disabling injuries of a hospital-acquired infection or an infection that occurred at any health care facility, you may have a medical malpractice claim for your suffering and damages. To learn more about your rights to a medical malpractice lawsuit, please request a free copy of our book, What You Need to Know Before Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Case.