It is entirely usual for a patient to be concerned about acquiring an infection whilst staying in hospital. This is particularly so for patients who are frail, have low immune systems, those that are elderly or those who are about to embark on surgery.
Hospital acquired infections are caused by viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens. The most common types of infection are bloodstream infection (BSI), pneumonia (eg, ventilator-associated pneumonia [VAP]), urinary tract infection (UTI), and surgical site infection (SSI).
It is the duty of the medical team to take great care, at every stage of treatment, to limit the potential for infection. Techniques like hand washing, wearing gowns, wearing face masks and meticulous cleaning of wards can help prevent infections from being passed from the medical staff to the patient or vice versa.
However, whilst numerous safety procedures are in place to keep the risk of infection down, surgical site infection is still the most common type of complication following surgery. In general, a post operative infection is not a sign of medical negligence. However, a failure to properly dress and maintain a surgical wound or a delay in diagnosing and treating an infection is. Medical staff are trained to be on the look out for signs and symptoms that might suggest that a patient has developed an infection. Such symptoms may include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, night sweats, chills and aches and pains. If a patient has undergone surgery then additional care needs to be taken and medical staff must routinely check that the surgical scar is not hot to the touch, that there is no swelling or hardening of the incision, there is no continued redness and if the wound is fitted with a drain, that it is not draining foul smelling fluid or pus.
If an infection is diagnosed then it will be need to be treated immediately and this will usually be with drugs that can suppress the infection. There are four main groups of anti-infective drug, these are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-tubercular, and anti-fungal. Depending on the severity and type of infection, the anti-infective drug may be given by mouth, injection or applied topically i.e. to the skin.
If there is a failure to diagnose and appropriately treat an infection in a timely manor, then this can have quite serious consequences for a patient, including the loss of a limb and even death. Dutton Gregory’s specialist medical negligence department has acted for many clients that have been affected by the injuries caused by infection. We have recovered significant awards for compensation, which has helped clients re-build their lives after such traumatic experiences.