TUESDAY, Jan. 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly people who develop infections while in an intensive care unit are at increased risk of dying within five years after their hospital stay, a new study finds.
"Any death from preventable infections is one too many," study senior author Patricia Stone, director of the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University School of Nursing, said in a university news release.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 17,500 Medicare patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) in 2002 and found that those who developed an infection while in the ICU were 35 percent more likely to die within five years after hospital discharge.
Overall, almost 60 percent of the patients died within five years. However, the death rate was 75 percent for those who developed bloodstream infections due to an intravenous line placed in a large vein (central line). And, the death rate was 77 percent for those who developed ventilator-associated pneumonia while in the ICU, according to the researchers.
Central line infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia are among the most common types of health care-acquired infections, the study authors noted.
And sometimes, simple measures can prevent these infections. For example, hand washing before handling someone's central line can cut down on infections, as can changing the dressing around a central line any time it gets dirty or wet. Ventilator-related pneumonia can possibly be prevented by keeping the head of the patient's bed elevated so the head is higher than the feet, according to the researchers.
Preventing central line-associated bloodstream infections led to an average of 15.5 more years of life for patients. Preventing ventilator-associated pneumonia resulted in an average of nearly 11 more years of life, the study found.
The researchers also found that preventing these infections reduced the cost of care by between $163,000 and $174,000 per patient, according to the study in the January issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.
"We've known for decades what works to prevent infections and save lives. Now, our study shows just how much money can be saved by investing in prevention," Stone said.
Each year, about 100,000 Americans die from health care-associated infections, which also cause about $33 billion in extra medical costs a year, according to background information in the news release.
The National Patient Safety Foundation has more about preventing infections in the hospital.