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CDC: Certain Hospital-Acquired Infection Rates Lower than Expected

The Centers for Disease Control have a tracking system for hospital-acquired infections through its National Healthcare Safety Network, which gathers annual patient infection information from hospitals throughout the United States. Using the historical data to establish trends, the network then predicts a baseline for the number of hospital infections that might be expected in the future.

The CDC recently released its latest report on this data and found an impressive 41 percent reduction over baseline in infections surrounding central-line venous catheters, which are inserted in into the right heart ventricle or vena cava through the jugular, subclavian or femoral veins. These catheters are used for a variety of important purposes, such as administering drugs or fluids and to measure central vein pressure. Central line infections can be deadly.

The report also noted a more modest reduction in infections surrounding urinary tract infections caused by catheters and in infections associated with surgical sites.

While these were certainly positive developments, both the CDC and the non-profit consumer advocacy group Consumers Union caution that the results were not spread evenly across all hospitals and, even though lower than the baseline expectations were not sufficient.

“There’re still far too many healthcare-associated infections. We have to do more to better protect patients,” said the director of the CDC.

In fact, only 22 percent of the hospitals reporting to the National Healthcare Safety Network actually showed statistically significant drops in hospital infection rates. Two percent had actually gotten worse.

The director of the Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project pointed out the difference between those hospitals where concerted action had apparently been taken to reduce their infection rates and those who had not.

“A small percentage of hospitals have been able to attain zero infections, showing that it can be done,” she said. “Unfortunately, most hospitals have not shown statistically significant improvement since 5 years ago.”

In fact, the sheer number of central line infections was up in 2011, the latest year studied. According to the CDC, 3,472 hospitals reported central line infections in 2011 — up 55 percent from 2010, when 2,242 hospitals reported infections associated with central lines.

The report calls out the slow but steady progress being made to reduce dangerous hospital infections. Unfortunately for individual patients suffering from these deadly infections, slow but steady progress is not enough.

Source: MedPage Today, “Hospital Blood Infections Down, CDC Says,” Michael Smith, Feb. 12, 2013