MRSA and other infections acquired in hospitals are one of the leading causes of patient deaths in the United States. On average, 1.7 million patients each year are infected during a hospital stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospital-acquired infections are not related to the injury or illness for which the patient was admitted. The most common infection is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA is a staph infection strain that is notoriously difficult to treat, resulting in complications that can lead to death if left untreated.
MRSA Causes and Risk Factors
MRSA is a type of staph bacteria, a common organism found on the skin or in the nose of about one-third of the population. The bacteria are generally harmless unless they enter the body. The most common way the infection enters is through cuts, wounds or surgical incisions. The reason MRSA is of such concern is because of its resistance to antibiotics and the damage it can cause while active in the body. MRSA risk factors include:
- Undergoing surgery
- Having a weakened immune system
- Being the victim of improper medical practices
- Undergoing procedures that use invasive medical devices
- Being present in medical settings that have not been sufficiently sterilized
Long-term-care facilities statistically have the highest rates of MRSA, due to lax environmental controls.
MRSA Symptoms and Complications
The infection often starts as small red bumps that resemble pimples, boils or spider bites. In cases in which the infection results from surgery, a patient may complain of a foul smell coming from the surgical site, or of redness and swelling. In healthy patients, staph infections can remain relatively minor, sometimes barely producing symptoms. However, if the patient becomes ill while infected, the bacteria may take advantage of the weakened immune system and lead to further complications.
Early detection and treatment are vital for MRSA infections. Prolonged exposure allows the bacterial infection to spread, causing severe pain and malfunction of the lungs, heart, bones and joints. If a doctor fails to recognize the signs of MRSA or diagnose and treat it accordingly, severe injury, including loss of limb or death from sepsis and septic shock, can occur.
When is the Doctor or Hospital Liable?
If a patient suffers an injury due to an untreated or delayed diagnosis of MRSA, the hospital can be held liable for any resulting damages, especially if the cause of infection was negligent medical treatment. This can result from improperly cleaned medical equipment, failure to follow disinfection or sterilization protocols, or improperly maintained HVAC equipment that allows infection to spread.
Patients have the right to opt out of certain procedures if they are particularly vulnerable to infections. If the hospital has not properly warned the patient, this is also grounds for liability in the event of infection. Surgical malpractice errors that may lead to infection include inadequate blood supply during surgery, dead tissue left to collect bacteria, and debris coming into contact with the wound.
Many cases of MRSA infection and injury are the result of negligent medical treatment. Contact Rasmussen and Miner today if you or someone you love is suffering from MRSA or another infection contracted in a hospital.