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Feeling sick? Going to the hospital may be more hazardous to your health than dealing with the illness you’re already experiencing. At least that’s been the experience of nearly 50,000 U.S. medical patients who have died from a hospital-acquired infection that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Specifically, according to recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Dynamics, blood poisoning and pneumonia claimed 48,000 lives in 2006 alone, and led to 2.3 million extra patient-days and cost $8.1 billion. Overall, these two illnesses are responsible for one-third of the 1.7 million infections U.S. patients acquire from hospital stays each year.

The study researchers used the largest database that includes hospital discharge records from 40 different states. Overall, they discovered that patients who underwent invasive surgery or elective surgery were at the highest risk for developing blood poisoning or pneumonia. Furthermore, hospital-acquired pneumonia extended a patient’s stay by 14 days and added an additional $46,400 to the initial hospital bill. Similarly, hospital-acquired sepsis also extended a patient’s stay by almost 11 days and added an average of $32,999 to the final bill.

Sadly, the researchers also found that many of the incidences of these infections could have been easily prevented by improving hygiene in clinical setting. Two doctors at John Hopkins, Doctor David Murphy and Doctor Peter Pronovost, also wrote an accompanying editorial to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In the editorial they stated their concern with the growing problem of preventable hospital-acquired infections:

The knowledge that patients continue to experience harm from their interactions with the health system is unconscionable.

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