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What are nosocomial infections?

You likely view the hospitals and medical centers in Bozeman and throughout the rest of local area as being safe havens where you can go and expect to be cured or treated for whatever illness or injury you may be experiencing. This expectation is justified, as these facilities offer state-of-the-art treatment technologies administered by skilled professionals. However, it should also be remembered that you and other patients may bring with you disease-causing pathogens that can be easily transmitted to others in such a setting. The question then becomes how likely are you to acquire an infection while in the hospital?

Information shared by the World Health Organization shows that seven out of every 100 patients in developed countries such as the U.S. will develop a hospital-acquired (or “nosocomial”) infection. In the United States, that number translates to 1.7 million patients annually, or 9.3 infections per every 1,000 patient days. Such cases exact a huge financial toll on the domestic healthcare system, costing an estimated $6.5 billion in treatment expenses.

What factors contribute to nosocomial infections? The WHO lists the following as being determinants in in infection risks:

  •          The inappropriate use of devices and medications
  •          Patients with already suppressed immune systems
  •          The complexity of certain procedures
  •          Poor adherence to standard infection control precautions

The first and last points highlighted above demonstrate the potential that healthcare providers have in limiting hospital-acquired infections. By simply following standard protocols such as cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments after each use, maintaining sterile environments in treatment areas and patient rooms, or even adhering to hand-washing guidelines, a vast number of nosocomial infections may be avoided altogether. 

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