Infections and the Chain of Command

“You may leave sicker than when you came in.”

Another case for anti-microbial coatings

A week after Leandra Wiese had surgery to remove a benign tumor, the high school senior felt well enough to host a sleepover. But later that weekend she was vomiting and running a fever. Thinking it was the flu, her parents took her back to the hospital. Wiese never came home. It wasn’t the flu but a deadly surgical infection.

About 2 million people a year contract hospital-related infections, and about 90,000 die, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recent increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs and the mounting cost of health care — to which infections add about $4.5 billion annually — have mobilized the medical community to implement processes designed to decrease infections. These include using clippers rather than a razor to shave surgical sites and administering antibiotics before surgery but stopping them soon after to prevent drug resistance.

For all of modern medicine’s advances, the best way to minimize infection risk is low-tech: Make sure any hospital staffers who touch you have washed their hands. Tubes and catheters are also a source of bugs, and patients should ask daily if they are necessary.