Hospital Beds and Serious Patient Infections

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Some estimates place hospital-acquired infections as the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Are copper beds the answer to dramatically reducing this preventable and fatal medical error?

A hospital-acquired infection is exactly what it sounds like: a serious infection that a hospital patient receives after admission. They are infections that arise during treatment, within three days of hospital discharge or within 30 days after a surgical procedure.

A broader term, healthcare-acquired infections, refers to infections that patients receive in all types of settings, including surgical centers, nursing homes, and ambulatory clinics. They can be just as serious as infections suffered in a hospital.

Common Yet Serious Hospital-Acquired Infections

The most common types of hospital-acquired infections include:

  • Urinary tract infections – 32% of all HAIs
  • Infections of surgical wounds – 22% of HAIs
  • Pneumonia – 15% of HAIs

According to federal government data, one out of every 25 hospital patients suffers from at least one infection related to hospital care.

The main cause of hospital-acquired infections is bacteria. The most common bacteria responsible for serious infections during a hospital stay are:

  • Staphylococcus aureus  (Staph)
  • E. coli
  • Enterococci
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa

These bacteria can lead to serious and potentially fatal infections of the blood, lungs and bones. Worse yet, many hospital-acquired infections have become resistant to today’s strongest antibiotics.

How Do Hospital-Acquired Infections Happen?

Viruses and certain fungi also can lead to hospital-acquired infections.  Regardless of the source, they typically are spread by person-to-person contact. This contact includes not only when physicians or other caregivers with the bacteria touch patients, but also when they touch medical devices.  Contaminated catheters or other treatment devices, when erroneously used on vulnerable patients, can have grave consequences.

The best way to prevent hospital-acquired infections is eliminating the potentially deadly germs from spreading.  This involves consistent and thorough handwashing by physicians and nurses before touching patients.  Medical devices and hospital room surfaces also should be cleaned thoroughly to help prevent hospital-acquired infections.

So where do copper hospital beds lie in the fight to reduce hospital-acquired infections?

A study (“Self-Disinfecting Copper Beds Sustain Terminal Cleaning and Disinfection (TC&D) Effects Throughout Patient Care”), released in November 2019, found that copper hospital beds kill bacteria and save lives.  The study claims that hospital-acquired infections kill almost 100,000 people a year.

Hospital bed surfaces today largely are plastic.  This study considered if copper surfaces would be safer.  The compared sets of beds all were located in hospital intensive care units.  Hospital-acquired infections are most likely to occur in ICUs, where the most serious diseases are treated.

Researchers found that 90 percent of the samples they collected from plastic hospital bed surfaces – specifically the handrails – had dangerously high levels of bacteria.

The researchers determined that copper hospital beds contained on average 95% fewer bacteria compared to their traditional plastic counterparts. Copper beds also maintained this safe level of bacteria through the patient’s entire hospital stay.

In releasing the study’s findings, the American Society of Microbiology notes that copper long has been touted for its ability to kill or stop the growth of microorganisms.

So perhaps copper beds will someday be uniformly adopted by hospitals to reduce the number of deadly hospital-acquired infections suffered by patients.  But current fixes are known: good personal hygiene and proper washing or disposal of medical equipment.  Yet 100,000 patients die needlessly die each year.

If you suffered serious harm or lost a loved one during medical treatment because of an infection, or any type of significant medical mistake, contact a lawyer who represents victims of medical malpractice.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles December 20, 2019

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