Any time a patient is admitted to the hospital for surgery or treatment, he or she expects to feel better and be healthier as a result. Unfortunately, many patients find they are sicker because of their time in the hospital. In some cases, patients face permanent consequences and might not survive their hospital stay.
One of the main risks patients face in the hospital are lower respiratory tract infections (LRI). LRIs are extremely common. It is possible to fully recover from an LRI, but it requires speedy diagnosis and treatment. Since many LRIs are preventable, it is important you understand your risks and your medical team do all they can during your hospital stay to prevent secondary complications from an infection.
What should hospital patients know about LRIs?
Lower Respiratory Tract Infections
Lower respiratory tract infections affect the bronchi, bronchioles, and lung alveoli. The most common LRIs are bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia. Anyone can develop an LRI during or after his or her hospital stay, but some patients experience an elevated risk. For instance, patients placed on ventilators are at risk for ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP).
Ventilator-associated pneumonia develops in patients who are using ventilators to help them breathe. This machine provides oxygen through a tube placed in a patient’s mouth, nose, or neck. Infections occur when germs enter through the tube and travel to the patient’s lungs. Exposure to staphylococcus aureus is the main concern related to VAP infections, accounting for approximately 25% of all cases.
In addition to VAP pneumonia, patients are also at risk for developing bacterial pneumonia, often related to antibiotic resistant bacteria. There are also instances in which viral pneumonia develops as a result of influenza. Healthcare associated pneumonia, including that which is developed in the hospital or a nursing home, often has a worse prognosis than other types of pneumonia. Pneumonia is considered healthcare associated if a patient develops it:
- After a stay in the hospital of at least two days
- While living in a nursing home or long-term medical facility for at least 30 days
- While receiving home wound care
- While receiving chemotherapy or IV antibiotics
- While attending a dialysis center or medical clinic within the last 30 days
Symptoms of an LRI
Symptoms vary depending on the exact cause of the LRI infection, but generally include:
- Malaise or fatigue
- Sore throat
- Ear ache
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal congestion or discharge
How Common are LRIs in Hospitals?
Pneumonia is a fairly common secondary medical issue for hospital patients, accounting for about 20% of all HAIs. Studies show it is consistently the first or second most common cause of HAIs. Additionally, developing pneumonia increases a patient’s risk of exposure to other infections by lengthening his or her hospital stay. Data shows patients that develop pneumonia during their time in the hospital have an increased stay of about 14 days. In 11% of cases, the patient did not survive, making it the leading cause of death from HAI.
Who is at Fault if I Develop a Hospital Related LRI?
Most hospitals do what is necessary to reduce patient risk, but there are instances in which infections were avoidable. In the case of hospital acquired pneumonia, this is often the case. Pneumonia can be prevented through common sense measures, as well as by keeping a close watch on patients that are in the highest risk categories. The original health of a patient plays a significant role in his or her ability to avoid developing and to recover from pneumonia or any other type of LRI, should one develop. This is why patients might be advised to wait to undergo surgery and other serious medical procedures until they are in optimum health.
If you or a loved one has pneumonia and is currently in the hospital or has recently had a hospital stay, your main focus should be on health. However, if your situation was preventable, you could be entitled to financial compensation. Pneumonia and other LRIs can be extremely expensive to treat and can put an undue burden on patients facing a variety of other medical issues. If you would like to know more about your rights as they pertain to hospital acquired pneumonia, LRIs, or any other type of hospital acquired infection, we can help. Contact us to learn more about what can be done to compensate you for your pain and suffering.