Seattle Hospital-Acquired Infection Attorney
Fighting Medical Malpractice in Washington
While the number of hospital-acquired infections (also known as healthcare-associated infections or HAIs) has declined in the last couple of decades, they are still a major concern for anyone seeking medical care. These are infections caused by exposure to a healthcare environment such as a hospital, or due to a medical procedure like surgery. Any of these infections not only risks your health, but also requires additional time in a hospital or ongoing treatment.
We trust our doctors and healthcare providers to give us a safe place to get better. Without proper care, however, they can introduce external factors that ultimately make us even sicker. Not all HAIs are necessarily medical malpractice, but any given infection could have been the result of negligence. That is why you need an experienced, knowledgeable Seattle medical malpractice attorney on your side to look at your situation and determine what happened. If you or a loved one has suffered from a hospital-acquired infection, call Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., today at toll-free (888) 228-3860.
What Are Healthcare-Associated Infections?
Healthcare-associated infections are infections associated with devices used in medical procedures. These infections are especially dangerous since they attack the already weakened immune system of a hospital patient.
Most infections come from either "endogenous" or "exogenous" sources. Endogenous sources are those already within the body. For example, billions of microorganisms naturally exist in the human body. During surgery, if a surgeon is not careful, bacteria from one part of the body can be introduced to another area where it does not belong. Exogenous sources are those outside the body of a patient, like bacteria in a hospital that can enter through a medical device such as a catheter or ventilator.
Common Types of Infections
Although numerous infections can occur during medical treatment, these six types are the most common:
- Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI): These infections cause thousands of deaths every year and are typically preventable. A central line is a type of catheter placed by a doctor in a large vein in the neck, chest, or groin of a patient to deliver medication, usually in intensive care. A CLABSI occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the bloodstream of a patient through the central line. If healthcare providers fail to follow strict protocols to keep the line sterile during insertion, dressing, and line checks, then an infection can occur.
- Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI): Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common type of healthcare-associated infections reported, and refer to any infection that affects the urinary system. As many as 25% of hospitalized patients receive a urinary catheter during their stay. A CAUTI is typically caused by prolonged use of a urinary catheter, so it is important that hospital staff use them only as long as necessary.
- Surgical Site Infection (SSI): As the name suggests, SSIs are infections that occur after surgery in that part of the body. These infections can be minor and surface-level, or get beneath the skin and affect organs or implanted medical devices. Proper care and antibiotics are usually required to treat these infections, so immediate and correct diagnosis is vital.
- Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP): Ventilators are machines used to help patients breathe by providing oxygen through a tube. If germs enter the tube and get into a patient's lungs, pneumonia may occur. Steps that hospitals can take to avoid VAP include sanitizing and sterilizing equipment and hands, and monitoring the patient’s breathing while keeping the patient's head elevated.
- MRSA: MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus (staph) infection that has become resistant to antibiotics. Most MRSA infections are due to an overuse of antibiotics. When these infections occur in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings, they are known as healthcare-associated MRSA. In healthy people, MRSA appears as a skin boil that looks similar to a bug bite with the skin becoming red, raised, and inflamed. MRSA infections are highly contagious.
- Puerperal Infections: Puerperal infections, also known as postpartum infections, occur soon after a woman has given birth. Bacteria enters the woman’s reproductive tract, and can cause a serious infection. Antibiotics can be very effective at treating a puerperal infection, but only if the infection is caught quickly. If it is not, further complications may arise and can be very serious, including abscesses, pulmonary embolism, or even sepsis.
Treatment and After-Care for Infections
When bacteria, such as MRSA, become resistant to antibiotics, there may be other antibiotics that can fight them. The wounds formed after a MRSA infection develops will need to be cleaned, and the wound may need to be drained. MRSA often passes through skin-to-skin contact, or through object-to-skin contact. Because of this, when healthcare professionals are treating MRSA patients, they often keep them in seclusion in order to keep the infection from spreading. When they fail to do so, they may be held responsible for allowing the infection to spread.
Other bacterial infections are very responsive to antibiotics, and sometimes, a course of antibiotics for a week to ten days will be enough to heal the patient. However, if these infections are not diagnosed by healthcare professional quickly, they can become much worse. Sepsis is one dangerous complication in which the bacteria makes its way into the bloodstream and causes widespread inflammation that can be fatal.
If the infection is not cleaned out and bandaged with clean materials, the infection may become worse or a secondary infection can result. People should know that when they visit a hospital, the medical staff will do everything they can to treat their condition and make them well again. When hospitals and other facilities fail to do so, it may be a case of medical malpractice.
Was My Infection Caused by Medical Malpractice?
This is a difficult question to answer, and really depends on the specific details of your case. Medical malpractice is one of the hardest things to prove in a civil claim because so many factors are involved in any situation. To prove malpractice, you must establish that a medical professional was negligent in some way and acted differently than another reasonable medical professional would have in the same situation. Research and expert testimony are typically required for such a case, which is why you need an experienced Seattle hospital malpractice lawyer by your side.
If Your Doctors Let You Down, Call Us Today!
Do not suffer in silence if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an infection that most likely came from your healthcare provider. Call us at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., today at (888) 228-3860. Tell us about your case and we can discuss your options.
- Hospital Acquired Infections Are a Serious Risk - Consumer Reports
- Healthcare-associated Infections
- Central Line-associated Bloodstream Infections: Resources for Patients and Healthcare Providers
- Surgical Site Infection (SSI)