Trauma patients need monitoring for infection risk

Trauma patients are at very high risk of developing infections while in hospital and should be monitored closely for early diagnosis and treatment, says a University of Toronto study.

"Our results tell us we need to identify these high-risk patients in the beginning and be vigilant about watching for signs of infection," says study co-author Dr. Andrew Simor of U of T's department of laboratory medicine and pathobiology and Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre. "We know that infection is a leading cause of death in trauma victims who survive the first few days and this study points to why this is the case and what we can do to prevent it."

All trauma patients admitted for more than 24 hours to the regional trauma unit of the Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre in 1996 were included in the study. Of the 563 patients, 209 or 37 per cent developed infections -- 76 per cent of which were contracted during hospitalization. The most common infections were those of the lower respiratory tract and the urinary tract; four patients died from their infections.

The analysis identified several risk factors for infection among these patients including longer hospital stays and multiple blood transfusions and surgeries. Invasive procedures such as intubation, ventilation or catheterization also increased trauma patients' susceptibility to infection by creating sites of entry for bacteria.

"We've seen a lot of progress in recent years in the treatment and survival of trauma patients, but the long recovery time in hospital leaves patients more vulnerable to infection," says Simor. "If we know and anticipate the risks for these patients we can develop more preventive measures." The study was published in the November issue of The Journal of Trauma.


Contact: Megan Easton
University of Toronto

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