New York Injury Law Blog

Unsafe Injections Are Making Patients Sicker

More than 150,000 medical patients in the United States have been injected with dirty needles since 2001, a new investigative report has revealed.

And that number might be only the tip of the iceberg.

Each year, hundreds of millions of needle injections are administered in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and doctors’ offices across the country. Most are done safely and without harm.

But an alarming number of shots – perhaps more than 5 percent – are unsafe.

These findings come from a recent USA Today report, “Dirty Needles Put Tens of Thousands of Risk.”

The paper studied regulatory records, court documents and data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to gauge the extent of unsafe injection practices. It also interviewed public health officials, medical professionals and victims.

Key conclusions:

  • More than two-thirds of the risky shots were administered in the last four years.
  • Dirty syringes can infect multiple patients.
  • The errors led to at least 49 disease outbreaks.
  • Victims suffered potentially life-threatening bacterial infections, such as MRSA, and viruses, such as hepatitis.
  • Countless dirty needle cases go unreported.

Here is an excerpt from USA Today:

When seven people arrived at a Delaware hospital in March with drug-resistant MRSA infections, the similarities were alarming.

All of the patients had the same strain of MRSA, all had the infections in joints, and all had gotten injections in those joints at the same orthopedic clinic in a three-day span. State health officials found that the clinic had injected multiple patients with medication from a vial that was meant to be used only once, spreading the MRSA bacteria to a new patient with each shot.

A month later, three patients in Arizona were hospitalized with MRSA infections, also following shots at a pain clinic. Again, state and county health officials tied the cases to the injection of multiple patients from a single-dose vial. A fourth shot recipient died; investigators noted that MRSA “could not be ruled out” as a cause.

In July, more than 8,000 patients of an oral surgeon in Colorado were advised to get tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and hepatitis after state health investigators found that his office reused syringes to inject medication through patients’ IV lines. Six patients have tested positive for one of the diseases.

Patients who got sick from a dirty needle said they felt betrayed and vulnerable.

One woman who contracted hepatitis C while being treated for cancer at a Nebraska oncology clinic had to undergo months of debilitating drug treatment on top of her chemotherapy.

Unsafe injections are more common in clinics, smaller outpatient facilities and long-term care centers than in acute care hospitals. Many of these facilities operate in a regulatory gray area with little oversight and few governing state laws.

In an anonymous 2010 survey of 5,446 clinical personnel, 6 percent said they “sometimes or always” use single-use medication vials to draw shots for more than one patient, and 1 percent admitted reusing syringes. Both practices violate CDC infection safety protocols. The findings were reported in the American Journal of Infection Control.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Read the USA Today article.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be a vigilant patient.
  • Consult a qualified Unsafe Medical Practices Lawyer if you believe you have been mistreated.

Source: USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/26/infections-needles-mrsa-hospitals/1780335/

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