Medical Staff

Study: Number, cost of U.S. hospital infections on the rise

Hospitalist Leadership Connection, October 2, 2007

A new study of inpatient data from United States hospitals found that the number of infections caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium increased by more than 7% each year from 1998 to 2003. As a result, the economic burden to hospitals rose by nearly 12% annually, according to the study published in the November 1 Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Staph aureus is a significant cause of ailments from minor skin infections to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis. In 1998, U.S. hospitals reported more than 250,000 staph infections, with more than 7% of those patients dying. By 2003, hospitals reported nearly 390,000 infections.

The study's authors say one possible reason for the increase of infections is the documented increase in the "superbug" methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Another reason could be that physicians and hospitals have improved their detection and reporting of infections.

The study also found that the staph-related in-hospital mortality rate dropped by nearly 5% each year, which may be due to the introduction of stricter infection control programs and more aggressive treatment of MRSA infections.

Hospital expenditures associated with staph infections increased from $8.7 billion in 1998 to $14.5 billion in 2003, the study found. This includes extended length of stay and additional surgery, medications, lab tests, and radiologic studies.

Visit for more information on the study.

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