Patients who become infected by MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — in hospital settings can suffer severe and life-threatening health effects. Without rapid treatment, MRSA can lead to pneumonia, infections of the bloodstream and skin, and sepsis.
In most cases, patients acquire MRSA Staph infections in hospitals through infected wounds or from medical professionals who fail to sanitize their hands appropriately. Individuals who carry MRSA but display no symptoms also can infect others in a hospital.
If you believe you have acquired a MRSA Staph infection in a hospital, it’s vital that you receive a correct diagnosis and work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to protect your rights.
MRSA Infection in Medical Settings
Research has found that health care professionals take significant steps to control MRSA infection when they follow CDC guidelines. With MRSA having gained resistance to a number of antibiotics, it’s vital to control the spread of the bacteria in health care settings.
MRSA infections can be classified as either community- or hospital-acquired. In hospital acquired infections — known as HA-MRSA — patients are exposed to the bacterium in medical settings such as nursing homes or hospitals. In addition to becoming infected through wounds or improperly washed hands, patients can be exposed by contaminated surgical instruments and linens.
Infections acquired in medical settings are a top cause of patient fatalities in the United States. MRSA infections pose special problems because the bacteria are resistant to most antibiotics typically used in treating staph infections.
MRSA infections do not always cause severe complications, but they are more likely to become serious when a patient suffers from additional illnesses. A patient who has a condition that weakens the immune system, for example, may develop pneumonia and lung complications when infected by MRSA.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Anyone can acquire a MRSA Staph infection in a hospital, but certain individuals are at higher risk of becoming infected and developing serious complications. Individuals who have been hospitalized within the past several months or who have weakened immune systems because of other medical problems may be at heightened risk of infection. In addition, people who reside in nursing homes have an elevated risk of developing hospital acquired MRSA.
If you or a loved one have become infected with hospital acquired MRSA, you are at higher risk of serious complications including urinary tract infections, sepsis and pneumonia. You should seek immediate medical attention if you develop symptoms including cough and shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headaches, chest pain, rash, fever and fatigue.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To begin the process of diagnosing a case of MRSA, a medical professional will conduct an assessment of a patient’s medical history, along with a physical examination. However, the only method for definitively identifying a MRSA infection is a culture obtained by a medical professional and examined in a laboratory.
If you are believed to have a case of hospital acquired MRSA, your doctor will take a sample from the area of the infection in your body. Samples may include wound cultures, which your doctor will obtain using a sterile swab and place into a sealed, sterile container for transport to a licensed laboratory. The lab will test the sample for the presence of MRSA Staph bacteria.
In addition, your doctor may take a sample of sputum — the liquid that leaves the respiratory tract during coughing. Like a wound site swab, a sputum sample is analyzed in a lab. People who use ventilators or otherwise cannot cough may need more-invasive medical procedures to get the sample. In some cases, doctors take urine samples or blood samples, which also are sent to labs for testing.
If you receive a positive diagnosis for hospital acquired MRSA, you may be hospitalized and placed on an intravenous antibiotic; the length of time the antibiotic is needed depends on the severity of the infection. You also may be placed in temporary isolation until your infection no longer poses a threat of spreading to others. Hospital staff members who provide care to MRSA patients are required to wear protective gear and follow stringent rules for washing hands and keeping the environment clean.
Hospital Liability for MRSA Infections
In cases of MRSA infections, hospitals can be found liable in medical malpractice lawsuits if personnel acted negligently and caused or contributed to a patient’s condition. Staph infections are relatively common in hospital settings, and not every infection constitutes a case of negligence or medical malpractice.
However, if hospital staff did not follow proper procedures or should have known that a specific patient had elevated risk of infection, the hospital may be liable. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can assist you in evaluating your case and recovering fair compensation for your injuries. For a free legal consultation, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.