Hospital-acquired pneumonia is a common and often deadly healthcare-associated infection (HAI).
Hospitals are a critical aspect of community and national infrastructure. Providing care to the ill and injured, hospitals are of vital importance throughout our lives. But what happens when a hospital stay, by itself, proves deadly or injurious?
By nature, healthcare facilities are home to drug-resistant germs waiting to gain a foothold in the next weakened immune system. Sometimes that takes the form of hospital-acquired pneumonia. Pneumonia in the hospital can be contracted through the use of a device like a ventilator, or when no such device is in use. Hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) is considered a pneumonia where symptoms occur approximately two days after admission. HAP is one of the most common HAI suffered by patients in the US and European countries.
According to the Joint Commission, one in every 100 hospitalized patients will suffer non-ventilator acquired pneumonia (NVHAP) while inpatient. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is another form of HAI. As is now widely known due to the COVID pandemic, patients with difficulty breathing on their own may be placed on a ventilator to enable them to breathe. A ventilator can be used with oral or nasal tubes, or through a hole created at the base of the neck. Given the weakened condition of the patient, germs on medical equipment can easily cause lung infections like pneumonia when a patient is on a ventilator.
Although NVHAP occurs as often, if not more often, than VAP, guidance on preventing NVHAP in hospitalized patients is not widely circulated. Recently, a group of stakeholders and concerned organizations issued a call to action to circulate preventative strategies and education, encourage research in the area, drive prevention efforts by insurers and facilities, and other measures to reduce the rate of NVHAP. In a recent Quick Safety issue, The Joint Commission circulated preventative suggestions that include:
- Breathing exercises, chest physiotherapy, and maintaining patient movement
- Regular oral care, modified diets for those with difficulty swallowing, and reducing use of acid-suppressing drugs
- Elevating the head of the bed of a patient
- Providing education, encouraging the patient to perform pulmonary tests (spirometry)
Overall, critically ill patients who contract HAP have a mortality rate of around 70 percent, particularly those already on ventilators. If you or a loved one are inpatient, be sure to ask about steps to avoid hospital-acquired pneumonia, especially if a ventilator is in use. If you suffer a serious injury due to medical mistake—speak to our legal team about your concerns.
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