13 most common healthcare-associated infections

Healthcare-associated infections are a consistent issue for both hospital patients and healthcare providers. While no single U.S. surveillance system can provide estimates of the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections across acute-care patient populations, a recent multistate prevalence survey published in the March 2014 by The New England Journal of Medicine reveals important insight for healthcare providers in their efforts to combat infections.

The Emerging Infections Program Healthcare-Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Use Prevalence Survey Team defined healthcare-associated infections based on National Healthcare Safety Network criteria, and the prevalence surveys of randomly selected inpatients were performed in 183 participating hospitals across 10 geographically diverse states. Survey data along with 2010 Nationwide Inpatient Sample data, stratified according to patient age and length of hospital stay, were used to estimate the amounts of healthcare-associated infections affecting patients in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2011.  

Across 183 hospitals and 11,282 patients, 452 patients had one or more healthcare-associated infections. The following list ranks the most common healthcare-associated infections from highest prevalence to least:

1. Pneumonia: 21.8 percent of all healthcare-associated infections

2. Surgical-site infection: 21.8 percent

3. Gastrointestinal infection: 17.1 percent

4. Urinary tract infection: 12.9 percent

5. Primary bloodstream infections: 9.9 percent

6. Eye, ear, nose, throat or mouth infection: 5.6 percent

7. Lower respiratory tract infection: 4.0 percent

8. Skin and soft-tissue infection: 3.2 percent

9. Cardiovascular system infection: 1.2 percent

10. Bone and joint infection: 1.0 percent

11. Central nervous system infection: 0.8 percent

12. Reproductive tract infection: 0.6 percent

13. Systemic infection: 0.2 percent

The most commonly reported pathogen was clostridium difficile, causing 12.1 percent of healthcare-associated infections. Infections resulting from the use of a device, (i.e., central-catheter-associated bloodstream infections or urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia) accounted for 25.6 percent of infections. It is estimated that there were 648,000 patients with 721,800 healthcare-associated infections in U.S. acute-care hospitals in 2011.


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