Patients go to the hospital to get well, not to get sicker. But unfortunately, a heart surgeon was recently identified as the source of staph infections at Cedars Sanai. The complex sutures required during heart surgery are thought to be behind tiny tears to the surgeon's gloves, facilitating the spread of staph infection to patients during surgery.
As a hospital with one of the lowest rates of reported hospital infections, this outbreak was a surprise to some. Not to Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit engaged in healthcare monitoring. They rated the hospital a C- for these sorts of cleanliness issues. But what could the danger be if patients contract a staph infection while in the hospital?
The Dangers of Staph Infection
A staph infection begins with a cut and the Staphylococcus bacteria infecting that cut. Usually treated with antibiotics, a staph infection is generally more an annoyance. But in patients such as those who received heart surgery, a staph infection could be extremely dangerous.
The dangers that heart patients face are quite serious. Heart patients could potentially develop an inflammation of the heart valves, named endocarditis. This could cause heart failure and even death.
To clean this infection, patients generally are treated to an aggressive course of antibiotics over 4 to 6 weeks. If this doesn't work, opening up the patient to clean the infected area is a possibility. In the most severe cases, replacement of the infected heart valve is necessary. In this instance, 4 of the 5 patients needed second valve replacement surgeries.
Examining the Standards in Hospital Care
Over 99,000 Americans die of hospital contracted infections every year. States such as California have begun to require that hospitals report certain infections to the state's health department in hopes that this will encourage cleaner conditions.
This staph outbreak calls to mind the lack of cohesive standards in hospital care. When a surgeon has a skin infection, there is no guideline or rule that says they should sit this one out, how many gloves to wear to prevent transmission of infections, or how many times to change said gloves. Surgeons and hospital administrators are literally flying blind in this instance.
When patients develop serious infections as a result of their hospital care, their entire life can change in an instant. This could require additional surgeries and put their lives at risk. Patients are encouraged to call a skilled personal injury and medical malpractice attorney to discuss how they might be able to gain compensation for these life threatening infections.