In a telephone interview Tuesday, CDC medical epidemiologist Shelley Magill, MD, senior author of the journal report, explained that the study was particularly important because it categorizes with greater detail than ever which parts of the body hospital-acquired infections affect. This information helps hospitals pay more attention to those areas where improvements are needed.
For example, surgical site infections and pneumonia tied for first place, with nearly 22% of all infections each. They were followed by gastrointestinal infections, mainly caused by C.diff. An unexpected finding was that a large portion of patients who had a healthcare-associated pneumonia did not have a mechanical ventilator, which is a common risk factor for lung infections. Of the 10,748 patients tracked who were not on mechanical ventilators, 357 acquired pneumonia that was unrelated to a mechanical device.
"Ventilator-associated pneumonia is still important, and I think quite challenging from a number of perspectives; we need to know more about prevention in that area. But what we didn't realize is that there is this large proportion of pneumonia happening in patients not on ventilators," Magill said. "I think we'd like to have a better handle on why those are happening."