The short is answer is - it depends. It is very tough (not impossible) to prove that the hospital was negligent for your getting an infection. But, if the hospital was late or delayed in discovering and treating your infection, you may have a good case if the delay caused a more serious problem resulting in a permanent injury. People getting medical care can catch serious infections known as healthcare or hospital-associated infections.
Among the more common life threatening infections found today are methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus commonly called "MRSA" and clostridium difficile typically called "C. diff". According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the germ C. diff - "was estimated to cause almost half a million infections in the U.S. in 2011, and 29,000 died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis." According to Science Daily's report of August 1, 2016: "A new epidemic strain of C. diff is proving alarmingly deadly, and new research not only explains why but also suggests a way to stop it." This new strain of C. diff reportedly has a mortality rate of 15% because it produces a toxin that kills protective cells called eosinophils. Researchers at the University of Virginia have just announced a method to restore depleted eosinophils which they transferred from a mouse to a patient. An infectious disease specialist should be familiar with this new development.
Anyone can get MRSA from contact with an infected wound, invasive medical procedures, IV lines, foley catheters and even body to body contact in the gym, daycare center and/or schools. Symptoms include reddish color on skin, swelling, pain, pus and/or fever. Complications of MRSA include sepsis, pneumonia, organ damage, and scarring. Treatment involves the prompt use of powerful antibiotics whether orally or more likely by intravenous administration.
Delays in recognition and treatment of MRSA bloodstream infection continue to happen, often with catastrophic results. When an infection is suspected you should expect that your white blood count is checked to see if it is elevated, that a blood culture is ordered to determine which bacterial organism is present - and - that your physician will identify the appropriate antibiotic for treatment such as vancomycin. Moreover care must be taken to insure that the side effects of the antibiotic treatment do not cause yet another medical problem. Significant delays in commencing antibiotic treatment can have tragic consequences.
The average human digestive tract is home to over 1000 species of microorganisms. Most are harmless and even helpful. But otherwise harmless bacteria can grow out of control and make you feel sick. One of the worst offenders is the bacterium called C. diff which, when it overgrows, releases toxins that attack the lining of the intestines. Though relatively rare compared to other intestinal bacteria, C. diff is one of the most significant causes of infectious diarrhea in the U.S. According to the CDC, symptoms include watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and belly pain.
C. diff is most likely to affect patients in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Most who develop C. diff are the elderly and those who have medical conditions that require long-term treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics prescribed for other medical conditions also kill off other intestinal bacteria that keep C. diff in check. Especially of concern are: the side effects of broad spectrum antibiotics; those patient's on multiple antibiotics; and, patient's on antibiotics long term. Ironically, the standard treatment for C. diff is another antibiotic, such as flagyl or vancomycin. However, inappropriate antibiotic use can also cause C. diff.
Fecal microbe transplant, also known as a "stool transplant", though not approved by the FDA, is emerging as a highly successful alternative strategy for treating recurrent C. diff infections. A stool transplant restores healthy intestinal bacteria by placing another person's stool in your colon through a colonoscope. Another treatment for C. diff are probiotics which are organisms, such as bacteria and yeast, which help restore a healthy balance to the intestinal tract.
Some of the malpractice claims arising out of C. diff include failure to timely order the C. diff test, or, to initiate empiric therapy in a timely manner both of which leads to poor outcomes. Failure to treat long enough or to discontinue offending antibiotic therapy may also prove to be malpractice. Use of anti-peristaltics such as Immodium or Lomotil is contraindicated in C. diff infections and can lead to toxic megacolon and death.