Half of ICU Patients Suffer From Infections

Highest rates seen in Central and South America, study finds

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TUESDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- About 50 percent of intensive care unit patients worldwide suffer infections, which increase their risk of dying in the hospital, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data collected on a single day (May 8, 2007) on 13,796 patients, aged 18 and older, in 1,265 ICUs in 75 countries. They found that 51 percent of patients were classified as infected and 71 percent were receiving antibiotics for treatment or prevention of infections.

Lungs were the most common site of infections (64 percent), followed by the abdomen and bloodstream.

The longer patients spent in an ICU, the more likely they were to acquire an infection. The infection rate for patients who'd been in an ICU for a day or less was 32 percent, compared with 70 percent for patients in an ICU for more than seven days.

The ICU death rate for infected patients was more than twice that of noninfected patients (25 percent vs. 11 percent), as was the in-hospital death rate (33 percent vs. 15 percent).

The highest ICU infection rates were in Central and South America (60 percent) and the lowest in Africa (46 percent). In general, infection rates were higher in countries that spent a lower percentage of their gross domestic product on health care.

This study "demonstrates that infections remain a common problem in ICU patients," wrote Dr. Jean-Louis Vincent, of Erasme Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, and colleagues. "These important data provide a picture of patterns of infection around the world, which can enhance understanding of global and regional differences and provide pointers to help optimize infection [prevention] and management."

The study is published in the Dec. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers advice on how to protect against health care-related infections.

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