Health Team

Infections are frequent in ICUs, study finds

Posted December 1, 2009 1:42 p.m. EST

 Ashley Bowman, a Forsyth county resident is looking for a new kidney after numerous life setbacks. Bowman is on the transplant list and in full-time dialysis. Despite what she's facing, she was determined to fulfill her dream.

The risk of patients developing infections while being treated in intensive-care units is a global health problem, researchers say.

A new study determined that at hospitals throughout the world, ICU patients have an additional 10 to 15 percent risk of dying from an infection.

"Therefore, strategies to try to prevent that – to treat it effectively and early – assume a substantial degree of importance when you look at this as a global health problem," said Dr. John Marshall, with St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

Researchers examined data from 1,265 ICUs in 75 countries over a single 24-hour period in 2007. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

Over half of the more than 14,000 patients in ICUs that day had infections, according to the study.

"Sixty percent of the infections were pneumonia, about 20 percent were infections inside the abdomen, and about 15 percent were infections of the urinary tract," Marshall said.

Patients who stayed in an ICU for seven or more days had an increased risk of developing an infection.

Marshall said he hopes the study will help ICU staffs "get a sense as to how much of the burden of infection is an added burden on a patient who is already at risk of dying because of the underlying diseases that led them to be in the intensive-care unit."