Healthcare-associated Infections (HAI)

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections caused by a wide variety of common and unusual bacteria, fungi, and viruses during the course of receiving medical care. Medical advances have brought lifesaving care to patients in need, yet many of those advances come with a risk of HAI. Approximately one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract a HAI. These infections related to medical care can be devastating and even deadly. As our ability to prevent HAIs grows, these infections are increasingly unacceptable.

Recent successes in HAI elimination have been very encouraging. Examples include sustained reduction in central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) by 70%, simply by ensuring adherence to available guidelines.

Reductions have been demonstrated for other HAIs as well, but, much more remains to be done.

Wherever patient care is provided, adherence to infection prevention guidelines is needed to ensure that all care is safe care. This includes traditional hospital settings as well as outpatient surgery centers, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and community clinics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website contains information intended to inform patients and healthcare personnel and help move healthcare systems toward elimination of HAIs.

Types of HAI:

Modern healthcare employs many types of invasive devices and procedures to treat patients and to help them recover. Infections can be associated with the devices used in medical procedures, such as catheters or ventilators. These healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) include central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia. Infections may also occur at surgery sites, known as surgical site infections. Additionally, Clostridium difficile can cause gastrointestinal infection; patients can be exposed to this bacterium through contaminated surfaces or the spores can be transferred on unclean hands of others. Central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia account for roughly two-thirds of all HAIs.

Central Line-associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI)

A central line-associated bloodstream infection is a serious infection that occurs when germs enter the bloodstream through a central line. A central line is a tube that healthcare providers place in a large vein in the neck, chest, or arm to give fluids, blood, or medications or to do certain medical tests quickly. CDC provides guidelines and tools to the healthcare community to help end central line-associated bloodstream infections. CDC resources also are available to help the public understand these infections and take measures to safeguard their own health when possible. These can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/bsi/bsi.html.

Clostridium difficile Infection (C. diff, CDI, C. difficile, CDAD)

Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that may develop due to the prolonged use of antibiotics during healthcare treatment. Clostridium difficile infections cause diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions such as colitis. Clostridium difficile can cause gastrointestinal infection; patients can be exposed to this bacterium through contaminated surfaces or the spores can be transferred on unclean hands of others.

CDC provides guidelines and tools to the healthcare community to help end Clostridium difficile infections. CDC resources also are available to help the public understand these infections and take measures to safeguard their own health when possible. These can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/organisms/cdiff/Cdiff_infect.html

Surgical Site Infection (SSI)

A surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. Surgical site infections can sometimes be superficial infections involving the skin only. Other surgical site infections are more serious and can involve tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted material. CDC provides guidelines and tools to the healthcare community to help end surgical site infections. CDC resources also are available to help the public understand these infections and take measures to safeguard their own health when possible. These can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/ssi/ssi.html.

Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI)

A catheter-associated urinary tract infection is an infection caused by germs in the urinary systems that enter through a catheter that is used during healthcare delivery. A catheter is a tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine. These infections affect the bladder (which stores the u​rine) and the kidneys (which filter the blood to make urine). CDC provides guidelines and tools to the healthcare community to help end catheter-associated urinary tract infections. CDC resources also are available to help the public understand these infections and take measures to safeguard their own health when possible. These can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/ca_uti/uti.html.

Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (VAP)

Ventilator-associated pneumonia is a lung infection that develops in a person who is on a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine that is used to help a patient breathe by giving oxygen through a tube placed in a patient’s mouth or nose, or through a hole in the front of the neck. An infection may occur if germs enter through the tube and get into the patient’s lungs. CDC provides guidelines and tools to the healthcare community to help end ventilator-associated pneumonia. CDC resources also are available to help the public understand these infections and take measures to safeguard their own health when possible. These can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/vap/vap.html

Much of the above information has been taken and adapted from the CDC website on healthcare associated infections, http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/index.html last updated: Feb 20, 2011.