The Impact of Hospital-Acquired Bloodstream Infections

Richard P. Wenzel, Michael B. Edmond, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2001;7(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Nosocomial bloodstream infections are a leading cause of death in the United States. If we assume a nosocomial infection rate of 5%, of which 10% are bloodstream infections, and an attributable mortality rate of 15%, bloodstream infections would represent the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Because most risk factors for dying after bacteremia or fungemia may not be changeable, prevention efforts must focus on new infection-control technology and techniques.

Vital statistics outlining the major causes of death in a population are an important measure of public health. Ranking disease agents according to the number of deaths they cause can be used for strategic planning and public health resource allocation. In the United States, vital statistics support efforts to control coronary artery disease, cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, and infections (Table 1)[1]. A listing of causes of death, however, provides little insight on how the diseases were acquired or managed or how they might have been prevented. Infections acquired in the hospital are an important cause of death, especially those involving the bloodstream or lung[2].

If hospital infection and death occur at high rates, we can examine the process of institutional care: access to infection control personnel, systems for prevention and early recognition, and early and appropriate therapy. With improved care, improved outcome could be anticipated. We explore the impact of hospital-acquired infections, with a focus on bloodstream infections.


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