Hospital patients face a variety of risks during their time under supervised care and few are more frustrating and frightening than SYStemic infections (SYS). SYS infections are infections that are disseminated throughout the entire body. Those who have undergone surgical procedures are especially prone to SYS infections, but anyone can develop this type of infection. Understanding the risks for SYS infections and knowing what to expect if you are undergoing a medical procedure in a hospital can help reduce the odds you will develop a SYS infection or any other type of complication.
What should patients know about SYS infections?
“Systemic” means affecting the entire body, as opposed to affecting a single body part or organ, which would be a localized infection. Infections that enter the bloodstream are considered systemic. Sepsis is one of the most common HAI blood infections. Pneumonia is also related to systemic disorders and can make recovery extremely challenging for patients.
Many HAI systemic infections are caused by the staphylococcal bacteria, or staph. In many cases, staph infections begin with abscesses on the skin, but progress to the blood stream over time. Staph infections are one of the main causes of HAI infections in the United States.
Symptoms of a SYS Infection
Symptoms of a SYS infection vary based on the cause and type of infection that develops. General symptoms include:
Sepsis is one of the more common HAI infections. Bacterial infections are the most common cause of sepsis, but it can also develop from other infections. It can begin anywhere bacteria or other infectious agents enter the body. If not treated early on, sepsis can progress to septic shock, which can be fatal. Sepsis and severe sepsis symptoms include:
- Heart rate of more than 90 beats per minute
- Fever greater than 101.3 F (38.5 C) or less than 95 F (35 C)
- Respiratory rate of more than 20 breaths per minute
- Presence of probable or definitive infection
- Significant decrease in urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased platelet count
- Abdominal pain
- Sudden change in mental status
To be diagnosed with sepsis, at least two of the above symptoms must be present. As sepsis progresses to severe sepsis, there will be evidence of organ failure. Septic shock occurs when the above symptoms are present and a patient experiences extremely low blood pressure.
Pneumonia is another common systemic concern for hospital patients. Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased respiratory rate
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle fatigue
How Common are SYS Infections in Hospitals?
Hospital acquired pneumonia is extremely common. Some estimates show it accounts for about 20% of HAIs, and might be the first or second leading cause of HAIs, and is considered the most common cause of death from HAIs. Most hospital acquired pneumonia cases are caused by a bacterial infection.
Despite precautions, antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in hospitals increase the likelihood a patient will develop pneumonia or sepsis. A recent study that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed nearly 50,000 patients in US hospitals died from sepsis or pneumonia. Developing sepsis after a surgical procedure can increase a patient’s hospital stay by more than 10 additional days. Nearly 20% of those who develop sepsis after surgery did not survive.
Who is at Fault if I Develop a Hospital Related SYS Infection?
Preventing sepsis, pneumonia, and other SYS infections is both a simple and complex challenge. Common sense measures including hand washing and sterilization can be enough to prevent bacteria from affecting hospital patients, but there is an increasing problem in hospitals with resistant bacteria able to stand up to traditional methods of eradication. This has resulted in heightened efforts to reduce patient risk, but unfortunately, there are still instances in which patients contract SYS infections when they were entirely avoidable.
If you developed a SYS infection following surgery or a hospital stay, you might be eligible for compensation. This is true even if the infection developed days or weeks following your time in the hospital. If you would like to learn more or would like to speak to someone about your experience with a systemic infection, contact us.