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Post-Hospital Syndrome sending many Patients back to Hospitals

Jan 24, 2013

People who’ve recently endured a hospitalization are likely to end up back there days and weeks later with an entirely new problem, caused by their previous stay in the hospital.

According to a USA Today report on a new study appearing in the recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, “post-hospital syndrome” is the cause for many readmissions to hospitals in the U.S. Researchers found that 1-in-5 elderly Medicare patients who were hospitalized returned there within a month. Most of these returning patients are affected by conditions caused by their previous stay in a hospital.

One example provided by researchers and the news source would be a patient who was hospitalized with pneumonia only to return there within a month after they suffered a fractured bone or other serious injury caused by a fall. This likely happened because they were weakened physically during their previous hospital stay, causing them to fall unexpectedly after they were discharged for their original malady.

An author of several studies that were used for this research summed it up for USA Today saying, “They come into the hospital with one thing but they leave with another.”

The study looked at more than 3 million hospitalizations of Medicare patients over an unspecified period of time. Ninety percent of people hospitalized with a heart attack originally were back in the hospital a month later, or less, with a different problem. That rate is 78 percent for patients hospitalized with pneumonia, and 65 percent for heart failure patients.

While there are many risks to staying in a hospital, such as the increased likelihood of acquiring a serious infection or other illness or a condition caused by inadequate or improper care, “post-hospital syndrome” is not caused by those increasingly common factors.

When a person is hospitalized, even though their overall health is of primary concern, the conditions they must endure on their road to recovery is likely making them more susceptible to problems after they are released from their stay. Poor and interrupted sleep, the amount and potency of medications, and prolonged periods of bed rest are just some conditions inside a hospital that can be disorienting and lead to trouble when a person returns home from their stay. This is even true for otherwise “healthy” individuals who are forced to endure a hospital stay. When they get home, they may be confused or delirious, or even just overall weakened by their extended period of bed rest. This can pose serious problems when they get home and attempt to return to their normal activities.

Adding to the risk of “post-hospital syndrome” is the likelihood that a patient in the hospital is not of the soundest mind - at that time - to be receiving instructions on specialized care they may need or things they must do, such as cleaning wounds, that if they’re not done properly, could land them back in the hospital with another series of problems.

The study suggests that hospitals and their staffs consider this part of a patient’s health when they’re administering drug treatments and providing other care. For instance, instead of waking a patient in the middle of the night to deliver medications, it may be best to wait until they’ve had a proper night of rest.

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