When you visit a doctor or hospital in search of medical treatment, you do not expect the care you receive to make your situation worse.
Unfortunately, this scenario occurs far too often. Patients contract infections in hospitals that can sometimes lead to extremely serious consequences, such as sepsis or septic shock, which often leads to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1.7 million cases of hospital acquired infections occur each year in the U.S., leading to some 99,000 deaths.
Hospitals and their medical staff have a responsibility to abide by specific practices and procedures that help to ensure a clean, safe environment for patients. When these procedures do not exist or are not followed, patients may acquire infections that are not related to their actual condition or the medical treatment they are receiving. When this occurs, medical professionals, the hospital, or both, may be liable for damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What is an HAI?
Hospital-acquired infections are contracted by patients upon or after being admitted to a hospital. These infections are separate from the patient’s medical condition or initial diagnosis. Often such an infection can occur within the first 48 hours after being admitted to the hospital. During this time period, a patient may have a weakened immune system and may be susceptible to various types of bacteria often found in a hospital setting.
Patients can contract a hospital-acquired infection in three primary ways:
- These risk factors pertain to the overall cleanliness and sanitary condition of the hospital. This can include the lack of cleanliness of building surfaces and water systems, improper filtration of heating and air conditioning systems and incorrect sterilization of medical devices and equipment.
- The risk factors involved with the patient include the patient’s condition – specifically, the seriousness of the illness or injury, the strength of the immune system and the length of stay in the hospital.
- These risk factors pertain to the level of care provided to the patient from nurses, doctors and other hospital personnel. They include improper use of antibiotics, inadequate washing of hands and improper care used with procedures such as intubation, administering intravenous medication and catheterization.
Sepsis risks and symptoms
Sepsis can result from an initial hospital-acquired infection, as the body responds in a certain manner to the infection, leading to injury of the body’s organs and tissues. This scenario can also lead to septic shock, which may cause the organs to shut down in a matter of hours. Proper and prompt diagnosis of sepsis and septic shock is crucial. According to the National Institutes of Health, of the more than 1 million Americans contracting sepsis each year, 15 to 30% do not survive.
The failure of medical personnel to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of sepsis and to respond to these indicators properly may be considered medical malpractice.
Some of the symptoms of sepsis include widespread inflammation, increased white blood cell count, fever and elevated heart and respiratory rates. If a hospital-acquired infection is not detected and goes untreated, the patient can suffer serious injury, which may lead to sepsis, septic shock and even death.
If you or a loved one has suffered medical negligence involving a hospital-acquired infection or sepsis, the award-winning Georgia law firm of Harris Lowry Manton LLP is able to help you fight for all the compensation you deserve. Let’s discuss your case with a free consultation. Call us today in Atlanta at 404.998.8847 or in Savannah at 912.417.3774, or send us a request through our contact form.