Health Team

Private ICU rooms cut hospital infections

Posted February 11, 2011 1:34 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2011 6:51 p.m. EST

— Hospitals are working hard to control bacterial infections that patients can acquire there, and a new study shows that introducing private rooms in an intensive care unit can slash infection rates by more than half.

Rex Hospital in Raleigh puts a single patient in each room in its ICU.

"There are a lot of older hospitals around the country that still use shared rooms. The literature clearly shows you can decrease hospital-associated infections with separate rooms," said Dr. Gerald Maccioll, an anesthesiologist with Rex.

A recent study showed that private ICU rooms cut the spread of three types of hospital-acquired bacterial infections by 54 percent: MRSA (methycillin resistant staphylococcus areus), C-Diff (clostridium difficile) and VRE (vancomycin resistant enterrococcus). Results of the study were published in the January issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Privacy is just one layer of infection control.

An infection-monitoring service at Rex identifies patients who might require more isolation measures. Sanitizing stations and signs at the door of each room are a reminder to staff, family and visitors.

"Sanitize yourself before entering a patient's room, leaving a patient's room and pretty much anytime you think about it," said Dr. Francis Castiller, an ICU physician at Rex.

Patient Patsy Wilson was in Rex's ICU for three weeks while undergoing three major surgeries for a haital hernia. She was in an induced coma for much of her stay, but when she awoke, she was thankful for the privacy – and control of the thermostat.

"You could have the room as cold as you wanted, and my room was so cold. I kept it that cold because I was hot all the time," Wilson said.

The study also found that private ICU rooms also contributed to decreased length of hospital stays and decreased death rate among patients.