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Hospital infections on the decline

Consumer Reports News: April 25, 2012 03:53 PM

Dangerous central-line bloodstream infections are down almost a third in U.S. hospitals, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And our updated Hospital Ratings, released this month, show a similar improvement in intensive care units. But despite the progress, these deadly infections—which are almost entirely preventable—remain widespread among hospitals nationwide.

The CDC report found that the estimated rate of bloodstream infections overall was 32 percent lower in 2010 than it was between 2006 and 2008. And our analysis of more than 1,400 hospitals from our April Hospital Ratings update found that the rate of bloodstream infections was 40 percent better than the national benchmark from 2006 to 2008.

"This is an encouraging trend," says John Santa, M.D., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. "More hospitals appear to be focusing on infection prevention." In fact, 166 of them, or 15 percent, kept their ICUs free of bloodstream infections in our most recent Ratings. That's up from the 136, or 13 percent, from our release a year ago. "But bloodstream infections are still too common, and the rates vary a lot from hospital to hospital," says Santa.

The CDC report also found that surgical-site infections declined 8 percent overall among more than 1,300 hospitals in 2010. But when the CDC looked just at hospitals that reported in both 2009 and 2010, they found no improvement. The infection decline may have been due to the inclusion of about 400 new hospitals. The CDC found that 9 out of 10 surgical procedures they tracked needed better infection-prevention procedures. Our Hospital Ratings include surgical-site infection scores for 519 hospitals.

Look up hospitals near you in our Hospital Ratings. And see our investigations on deadly hospital infections, pediatric infections, and our guide to staying safe in the hospital.

National and State Healthcare-associated Infections Standardized Infection Ratio Report [CDC]

Kevin McCarthy

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