The prevalence of health care-associated infection in older people in acute care hospitals

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2011 Aug;32(8):763-7. doi: 10.1086/660871.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of health care-associated infection (HAI) in older people in acute care hospitals, detailing the specific types of HAI and specialties in which these are most prevalent.

Design: Secondary analysis of the Scottish National Healthcare Associated Infection Prevalence Survey data set.

Patients and setting: All inpatients in acute care (n = 11,090) in all acute care hospitals in Scotland (n = 45).

Results: The study found a linear relationship between prevalence of HAI and increasing age (P<.0001) in hospital inpatients in Scotland. Urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal infections represented the largest burden of HAI in the 75-84- and over-85-year age groups, and surgical-site infections represented the largest burden in inpatients under 75 years of age. The prevalence of urinary catheterization was higher in each of the over-65 age groups (P<.0001). Importantly, this study reveals that a high prevalence of HAI in inpatients over the age of 65 years is found across a range of specialties within acute hospital care. An increased prevalence of HAI was observed in medical, orthopedic, and surgical specialties.

Conclusions: HAI is an important outcome indicator of acute inpatient hospital care, and our analysis demonstrates that HAI prevalence increases linearly with increasing age (P<.0001). Focusing interventions on preventing urinary tract infection and gastrointestinal infections would have the biggest public health benefit. To ensure patient safety, the importance of age as a risk factor for HAI cannot be overemphasized to those working in all areas of acute care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheter-Related Infections / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / epidemiology