HAI costs over $10 billion per year

The five most common infections that patients get after they’ve been admitted to the hospital cost the U.S. health care system almost $10 billion a year, a new study shows.

One out of every 20 patients who are admitted to a hospital will fall victim to an infection they pick up while there, according to the U.S. CDC. These infections can be serious and even life-threatening, and recent studies have estimated that as many as half of them may be preventable. The new study from Harvard researchers, which was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that by focusing prevention efforts on surgical site infections, infections associated with the use of devices such as central lines, catheters and ventilators, and by guarding against infections caused by Clostridium difficile, hospitals could save substantial amounts of money.

“This is real money, I mean real money,” said Dr. Trish Perl, a professor of medicine and pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore.

The most common infections and their costs:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections averaged about $45,000 per case.
  • Pneumonia infections that strike patients who are put on ventilators to help them breathe cost about $40,000 per case.
  • The most common infections, surgical site infections, which happen in about one out of every 50 operations, cost around $21,000 each to treat.
  • There are about four C. difficile infections for every 1,000 patients who spend a day in the hospital, making them the second most common kind of infection, and those cost about $11,000 each to treat.
  • Urinary tract infections associated with the use of catheters cost about $900 each.

The researchers say their numbers probably underestimate the true cost of treating health care-associated infections.