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How dangerous is a central line bloodstream infection?

Posted in Medical Malpractice on Friday, January 16, 2015

When patients enter Illinois hospitals for treatment of one condition, they sometimes develop and must be treated for a completely new condition as well. These hospital-acquired infections are common and unfortunately, can often be fatal. One such dangerous infection is a central line-associated bloodstream infection. Known as a CLABSI, this type of infection is serious and can quickly develop into a life-threatening condition known as sepsis. A seasoned Chicago medical malpractice lawyer may see many instances of CLABSIs throughout their careers because of the extreme harm that they can cause to patients and their families.

What is A CLABSI?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a central line or central catheter is a tube that medical professionals place in a large vein in the neck, arm, chest or groin, through which they administer medicine, fluids or nutrition. When not properly cared for, the tube site can become infected and allow bacteria to travel down the tube to the blood stream, causing a CLABSI.

Associated risks and potential outcomes

If enough bacteria and their toxins enter the blood, the patient’s immune system may go into overdrive in an attempt to eliminate the bacteria from the blood. This causes a hyper-response of the immune system known as sepsis. Inflammation can become widespread throughout the organs and tissues of the body, causing the failure of multiple organ systems. If not treated in time, septic shock often sets in and can often be fatal. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer knows, blood pressure can drop to dangerously low levels and death soon follows.

Although the condition can be treated with antibiotics and large doses of IV fluids, many elderly patients or those with already compromised immune systems are more susceptible to dying as a result of the infection. Patients who survive sepsis may have suffered irreversible damage to many vital organs, including the brain. Additional problems include blood clots throughout the appendages, which can result in further tissue death and the possible need for amputation. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people recover from the more mild versions of sepsis, but when patients enter septic shock, they only have a 50 percent chance of survival.

Penalties at Illinois Hospitals

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that 27 Illinois hospitals are facing steep fines for their failure to properly reduce the number of infections and patient injuries in the past year. Medicare performed a review of hospitals throughout the nation based on three measures:

  • CLABSI frequency
  • Urinary catheter infections
  • Eight other commonly seen complications, including surgical cuts, broken hips and collapsed lungs

Nine Chicago facilities ranked among the worst in the nation, and each has been fined between $1 million and $2 million to act as an incentive toward eliminating these medical errors.

For many patients, the new penalties come too late. Those who have been affected by a CLABSI should contact a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer immediately to learn their rights and seek compensation for their injuries.

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