Continuity of Care Infections in Hospitals: What Every Patient Should Know

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During the  last  several months,  the  news  and media    have been filled with  reports of    “bugs”   or  “superbugs”  that originate in hospitals and are resistant to the normal treatment  methods used to eliminate them.  This is not new, but the numbers of incidents are rising.


The Center for Disease Control estimates that one out of every ten patients admitted to a hospital will suffer from an infection acquired in the hospitals. Healthcare institutions will do everything in their power to avoid that situation from happening to patients, but patients need to understand about what they can do on their own to significantly reduce their risk.

Why Do Hospital Acquired Infections Occur?

There a re many causes  for  infection. For example,  the body’s normal defense mechanism for  infection;  the  immune system, can be vulnerable due to old age, underlying conditions such as diabetes, kidney or liver disease or any other chronic Illness.


Age also plays an important role in how strong your body is. The strongest defense against infections is your skin. Any procedure that penetrates your skin will increase your risk of obtaining an infection.

Can Hospitals Be Free of Infections?

There are no reports in the medical literature of a well documented study that proves that a hospital can be 100% free from infections.  Nevertheless, there are many ways that a hospital and the patient can reduce the risk he or she has.

What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

If your hospitalization  is elective you can start  this prevention program before hand.

Before Admission:

If  you  are  a  smoker,  quit  smoking!  If  you  can’t  quit reduce smoking as much as possible.  Smoking does not only increase your risk of respiratory infections but also delays your wound healing process,  and   by doing  so, increases the risk of your incision site getting infected.

Reduce your weight: Overweight patients  tend  to have higher rates of infections after surgery. If your condition allows you to exercise or diet, you will beneft strongly.

Control your diabetes: If you suffer from diabetes make sure it is under control before your surgery starts. Careful control of your blood sugar will decrease your risk.

During Your Stay:

Hand  washing:  Wash  your  hands  carefully  after handling every kind of dirty material. Do not be afraid to remind doctors and nurses to wash their hands before physical examination or before a procedure. Take  good  care  of  the  dressings:  Dressings  should always  be  tight  and  dry. They  are  there  to  protect  the incision  from bacteria.  If you notice  that  it  is  loose or damp,  inform  the  nurses  immediately  and  request  a change.

Follow  instructions  carefully:  After  a  procedure  or during your hospitalization, the doctor might ask you to do  breathing  exercises  or  to  get  out  of  bed. These  are important tasks that serve to diminish the risk of hospital acquired pneumonia.  If you have pain, do not be afraid to ask for help and pain medication.

After Hospitalization

Hand washing:  Always follow the same procedures as during hospitalization.

Dressing  care: Do  not  remove  the  dressing  until  the date your doctor has instructed you to. If you have any questions because the dressing is loose or damp, contact your physician immediately.

Limit  your  contact with  the public:  Even when  you feel  fne,  remember  that  your  body  just  underwent  a traumatic  event.     Your  immune  system  is  weak  and needs  time  to  recover. People  carry  all kinds of germs and bacteria around even if they do not appear to be sick. Allow suffcient time to heal.

Rest   : Rest is the best remedy for regaining your strength   back.  If you have diffculty sleeping ask your physician for sleeping aids, especially the frst few nights following treatment.

Together,  through  combined  efforts  of  hospitals  and  patients, the risk of hospital acquired infections can be reduced signifcantly. If  you  have  any  questions  please  ask  your  physician  or  visit www.cdc.gov.

Dr. Juan M. Aragon, M.D. Is the Assistant Medical  Director  of  Hospital  Clínica Bíblica in San Jose, Costa Rica. His work is concentrated around quality and outcomes management. He works for the organization in Costa Rica and around the world and is a member of the Quality of Care Committee of the Medical Tourism Association. Dr. Aragon can be reached at   jmaragonc@gmail.com