To obtain estimates of the frequency of nosocomial infections nationwide, those occurring at the four major sites-urinary tract, surgical wound, lower respiratory tract and bloodstream-were diagnosed in a stratified random sample of 169,526 adult, general medical and surgical patients selected from 338 hospitals representative of the "mainstream" of U.S. hospitals. We estimate that in the mid-1970s one or more infections developed in 5.23 percent (± 0.16) of the patients and that 6.62 (± 0.24) infections occurred among every 100 admissions. Risks were significantly related to age, sex, service, duration of total and of preoperative hospitalization, presence of previous nosocomial or community-acquired infection, types of underlying illnesses and operations, duration of surgery, and treatment with urinary catheters, continuous ventilatory support or immunosuppressive medications. Seventy-one percent of the nosocomial infections occurred in the 42 percent of patients undergoing surgery and 56 percent in the 38 percent financed by Medicare, Medicaid or other public health care plans.
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