Spending time in a hospital because of a heart health issue can be a scary experience and it does not get any easier if you develop an infection as a result of your stay. Cardiovascular system (CVS) infections can be extremely serious and cause significant setbacks for patients healing from open heart surgery and other heart treatments.
What do you need to know about CVS infections?
Cardiovascular System Infections
A cardiac infection causes an inflammation of the cardiac muscle. Major infections can occur in the breastbone or within the chest cavity and are one of the most serious open heart surgery infections. An infection can require follow-up surgeries or the removal of the breastbone, and they can be fatal.
CVS infections can be related to the surgical wound, but can also arise as the result of a device, or from other complications related to the procedure. The two most dangerous hospital-related CVS infections include infective endocarditis on native or prosthetic valves and infections related to transvenous permanent pacemakers, defibrillators, and left ventricular devices. Luckily, these infections are rare, but they have an extremely high morbidity rate when they do occur. They are more likely to develop in older patients and symptoms of an infection typically arise within four to eight weeks, if not sooner.
Most CVS infections are caused by one of six medical conditions including:
- Infective endocarditis
- Libmann Sack’s endocarditis
- Pericardial effusion
Symptoms of Cardiovascular Infections
Some patients develop symptoms of CVS infections prior to their hospital discharge, but in other cases, symptoms might not arise for a month or two following their procedure. Should you or a loved one develop any of these symptoms or experience anything unusual following an open heart procedure, it is essential you contact a medical professional immediately.
Symptoms of CVS infection include:
- Change in heart rhythm
- Abnormal swelling from fluid build-up in the legs
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Skin rash
How Common are Cardiovascular Infections in Hospitals?
Though the most serious CVS infections are fairly rare, complications from heart procedures are somewhat frequent. Recent data shows cardiovascular infections account for approximately 30% of all hospital acquired infections.
Reducing Your Risk for CVS Infections
There are a number of different things that increase a patient’s risk for developing a CVS infection. You and your medical team should discuss various factors that put you in a higher risk category prior to your surgery. For instance, if you are obese or severely obese, or you have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart surgery risks are higher. Your doctor might advise you to lose weight before surgery. If you are diabetic, your blood sugar levels will need to be under control before surgery.
Once surgery is scheduled, your medical team will take action to further reduce your surgery risks. Antibiotics are an important part of your procedure and you will be given a dose of antibiotics in preparation for your surgery. There is evidence that pre-surgical antibiotics significantly lower surgical wound infection risks. In most cases, antibiotic treatment ceases about 24 hours after the procedure to ensure patients do not become resistant to the medication, should a problem arise in the future.
Another important aspect of preparing male patients for surgery is hair removal. Removal of hair at the surgical site should be done just prior to surgery to avoid infections in the tiny, difficult-to-see cuts that occur with any hair removal. There is some evidence that clippers are more effective than razors for preventing infections related to hair removal.
Following your surgery, you will receive instructions for caring for your wound. Wound care is extremely important, so be sure you understand the instructions prior to your discharge from the hospital. If a loved one will be caring for you, he or she will also need to understand wound care instructions. Keep a close eye on your surgical wound site in the days and weeks following your procedure. Most wound site infections can be treated before they create a serious issue, but you must act as soon as possible so your doctor can prescribe treatment.
Who is at Fault if I Develop a Hospital Related Cardiovascular Infection?
If you or a loved one developed a CVS infection following a medical procedure for your heart, an experienced attorney can provide information to help you determine whether or not a lawsuit is necessary. If you would like to know more about CVS infections or any other type of hospital infection and your rights, we can help.