Zero Tolerance on Central Line Infections

Debra A. Jensen's Medical Malpractice Legal Blogs

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Attorney in Philadelphia, PA

Debra A. Jensen

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Serving Philadelphia, PA

  • Serving Philadelphia, PA

  • Free initial consultation, Fixed hourly rates, Fixed fees available

Managing Partner at firm Galfand Berger LLP

Serving Philadelphia, PA

Free initial consultation, Fixed hourly rates, Fixed fees available

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just about 650,000 people get an infection after going to the hospital each and every year. And out of that number of people, a staggering 75,000 dieA number of these life-threatening infections are 100% preventable, so what are hospitals and doctors doing to keep their patients safe and at a much lower risk for contracting hospital-based infections?

There is a particular kind of hospital-based infection that not only kills people, but also is overwhelmingly expensive to treat. It affects 27,000 annually and costs nearly $50,000 per patient. This is a central line infection, an infection that enters a person’s system through intravenous tubes that provide them nutrients, fluids and medicinesThe Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) did a study that revealed that people who are on IVs are also typically already quite sick or weak. These patients may be immunocompromised and then pumped full of different strains of bacteria, causing an infection so severe that it is too often deadly.

There are ways to limit the transmission of such infections, and they are important for medical professionals to practice. Hospital-acquired infections are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Central line infections are fatal to 25% of the people who get them and yet limiting or entirely preventing them is simple. Washing hands, swabbing a patient’s skin with antiseptic before central line insertion as well as whenever changing a line or dressing, and reassessing patient’s needs for a central line daily are all ways to limit these infections. The study showed that when one hospital in particular put these prevention practices and protocols into effect that they went almost two years without reporting a single central line infection.

There is a set of principles that was developed by Peter Pronovost, M.D. that are considered to be the “gold standard” of hospital safety protocols for limiting central line infections. Both doctors and patients alike can refer to these to help stay safe in a medical setting. We have listed them below, and remind you to please consult directly with a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns about any of the following tips and practices.

The Pronovost Standard

  • Research the hospital you will be going to. Make sure you know how it ranks and if it is considered adequate on patient safety practices. You can follow this link Hospital Ratings, to see how your hospital of choice measures up.
  • Keep everything as clean as possible: you can use bleach wipes for this. Getting rid of bacteria is key.
  • Bring a friend or loved one with you. It is easy to get overwhelmed during a medical situation, so having an advocate is always a good idea.
  • Make sure all wounds are covered so they are not exposed to harmful bacterium.
  • Have a pen and paper with you at all times, because this helps you to keep a record of what is going on. You can record what medicines you’ve taken, what questions you have and any/all concerns.
  • Refuse to use razors. Sometimes, medical personnel will need to remove hair for a procedure or surgery, but using an electric trimmer is safer than a razor because it prevents cuts or wounds that are then open to bacteria.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of acquiring an infection because it compromises your immune system. Even if you are only able to quit temporarily, give it a try.
  • Request a MRSA testMRSA, a deadly form of bacteria that is antibiotic-resistant can be screened for with certain tests. You can even be tested prior to being admitted to a hospital. This way, should you test positive, medical professionals can be prepared and treat accordingly before you have a medical procedure of any kind.
  • Ask if you really need a catheter or Doctors should be assessing your need for a catheter or IV daily, but you need to be on top of asking these questions as well. When any kind of central line is removed, the chance of an infection decreases.
  • Inquire about antibiotics. It is typical protocol to give a patient an antibiotic before surgery.
  • Make sure you clean up well the night before a medical procedure of any kind. This can help limit your chances of getting an infection.
  • If you have an infection, hold off on surgery if you can. When you have an infection of any kind, the chances of it worsening or developing a new one increase.
  • Look out for diarrhea, and get tested for C. diff if you are experiencing bouts of it within 24 hours of a medical
  • Ask about certain medications, like heartburn medicines. Some of these increase the chances of certain kinds of infections.
  • In the early 2000s the CDC believed that central line infections could decrease by 10% at the most. But in 2004, Dr. Pronovost implemented his checklist at Johns Hopkins and within less than two years, central line infections had gone down by nearly 70%. What this means is that infections are entirely preventable as long as medical professionals are mindful of the ways in which to reduce them. Johns Hopkins is not the only hospital where infection rates have decreased greatly; there are other hospitals throughout the United States that have lowered the amount of infections by simply following the above list of recommendations. Hospitals need to constantly reassess the ways in which they can limit infections. They can do this by assessing which antiseptics are the most effective and also by insuring that their staff is following all safety protocols.

    Even as a patient, it is important to be aware of these practices so that you can ask questions and be involved in your medical treatment. If you have a friend or family member with you, they can act as an advocate as well. Being involved in your medical care will only increase your safety in hospital settings that can be dangerous, and at times, even fatal.

    Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP

    The Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger have successfully represented clients who have been injured due to medical negligence, malpractice and misdiagnoses. If you or any of your loved ones have experienced such a situation, an attorney at Galfand Berger, LLP can help. With offices located in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form at www.galfandberger.com.

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