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Warning: Going to the hospital may be hazardous to your health

December 1, 2009 |  1:01 pm

If you don’t believe it, check out a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Icu An international group of researchers examined data on 13,796 adult patients from 1,265 hospitals in 75 countries who were unlucky enough to be in an intensive care unit on May 8, 2007. Here’s a summary of what they found:

  • Fifty-one percent of ICU patients had some sort of infection. That’s up from 45% in a similar study from 1995.
  • The longer you’re in the hospital, the more likely you are to become infected. “Only” 32% of patients who had been in the ICU for a day or less had an infection of some kind, but the comparable figure for patients who had spent more than a week in the unit topped 70%.
  • The mortality rate for ICU patients with an infection was 25%, compared with 11% for patients without an infection.
  • The most common infection site was the respiratory tract (64%), followed by the abdomen (20%), bloodstream (15%) and renal/urinary tract (14%).
  • Infection rates in North America were slightly below average, at 48%, but the lowest rate was in Africa, at 46%. The highest infection rate was 60%, found in Central and South America.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: What are the odds of picking up a nasty bug in the ICU? About 50-50, according to a new study. Credit: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times

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Comments (5)

Do bacteria lie in wait in I.C.U's waiting to infect occupants, or are they aleady inside us, suppressed by our immune systems, and activated when the stress of the ICU depresses immune function?

This is about one of the silliest articles I have ever read. All I kept saying was "duh". Of course ICU patients have infections, they are the most ill patients. Of course they have respiratory infections, most ICU patients are there for respiratory conditions. Of course they have more chances of getting an infection the longer they are there - they are exposed to more and they are certainly immune compromised or they wouldn't be in the ICU. Seems like someone is trying to make a negative case for something that is really common sense.

Most respitory infections are caused by a virus, not a bacteria. The JMA has it right: most hospital acquired infections are preventable. Many hospitals have instituted programs to reduce the number of hospital-acquired infections and these programs have been successful. Hospitals are indeed dangerous places.

A doctor is one who will kill you today in order to prevent you from dying tomorrow...

Because some many Americans (and especially the poor and elderly) have poor nutritional status, our medical system (doctors and hospitals) should check the vitamin D, vitamin C and other nutrients' status and treat the patients for any deficiencies. Americans should be educated (beginning in public schools) of the importance of vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients in disease prevention and treatment. If opinionators think that a compromised immune system is a major reason causing infections to spread in hospitals, what are the hospitals doing to make major improvements in patients' immune systems? All too often, the answer to that question is little to nothing.


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