This thing is so small you need a microscope to see it. But man, it’ll put a hurtin’ on you if you come in contact with it! We talked last time about the CLABSI as a central line associated blood stream infection – CLABSI. To add to the alphabet soup, a CLABSI is an HAI. Great. More acronyms. HAI isn’t Japanese. It means Healthcare Associated Infection.

Hundreds of millions of patients throughout the world are affected by these HAIs. Not quite as many as Carl Sagan’s billions and billions of stars, but hey, the universe is bigger than just Earth. Almost thirteen per cent of these are bloodstream infections. Upwards of ten percent of hospitalized patients will develop an HAI according to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC). It’s not just a large number of patients; it is a big chunk of change to the cost of healthcare. And increased rates of morbidity and mortality.

We see that it is the most seriously ill patients who are most susceptible to these infections. This is due in large part to the increasingly invasive and complex procedures to which they are exposed, a more elderly age, greater state of compromise to their immunosystem and an increase in the resistance of bugs to antimicrobial treatments. Good news though. It’s largely preventable! If we do the right things.

We said hundreds of millions of patients impacted. Lets look at a bigger number now. Lots bigger. More zeros. How about thirty three (33) billion. Yes, billion. Now we’re talkin’ Carl Sagan numbers. But, billion what? Try dollars! It’s been estimated that up to 33 billion dollars are spent each year (yes, year) on fighting HAIs.

I know a number like that got your attention. Fortunately, it’s also gotten the attention of some of the organizations that can do something about this problem. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) listed the prevention of HAIs as one of it’s top twenty priorities for national action in its 2003 report.

Despite this attention and focus, we have only made limited progress. There is more to be done. Next time we’ll look at what we can do to fight back. To be continued…

Information for this blog post was derived from a monograph put out by The Joint Commission titled Preventing Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections: A Global Challenge, A Global Perspective. May 2012.