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Nosocomial infections in the elderly

Increased risk per hospital day
  • Susan M. Saviteer
    Affiliations
    Department of Hospital Epidemiology, North Carolina Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

    Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Greg P. Samsa
    Affiliations
    Department of Hospital Epidemiology, North Carolina Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

    Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • William A. Rutala
    Correspondence
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. William A. Rutala, Hospital Epidemiology, Room 1001, North Carolina Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514.
    Affiliations
    Department of Hospital Epidemiology, North Carolina Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

    Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
    Search for articles by this author
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      Abstract

      Elderly patients have been shown to have an increased risk of acquiring nosocomial infection per hospital admission. To determine if the length of stay accounts for this risk, daily infection rates were computed per decade of life and rates for patients over and under 60 were compared using risk ratios. Four thousand thirty-one nosocomial infections in 2,567 patients were identified for a 1980 through 1984 admission cohort in an acute-care hospital. The daily infection rates were 0.59 percent in patients over age 60 and 0.40 percent in younger patients (relative risk = 1.49). The daily incidences of urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and septicemias were all significantly increased in elderly patients with risk ratios of 2.78, 2.07, and 1.36, respectively. Further analysis revealed that elderly patients experienced significantly more nosocomial infections for each day of hospitalization after Day 7. These data show that elderly patients experience an increased daily rate of nosocomial infection, and suggest that efforts be directed at identifying clinical conditions that predispose this population to hospital-acquired infections.
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