Definition and Overview
Infection management refers to the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of any kind of infection, which could be caused by a wound, bacteria, virus, fungi, or a serious infectious disease.
The management of an infection is beneficial on an individual level, as well as on a community level, such as when an entire community is at risk of a transmittable disease. Its main goals are to prevent the transmission of infections and to treat an existing infection. When not properly managed, infections can cause serious health complications and may even lead to life-threatening conditions.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Infection management is necessary for a patient who is suffering from or is at risk of having the following:
- Wound infection
- Surgical wound infection
- External infection, such as a skin infection more commonly caused by bacteria or fungi
- Internal infection, such as an ear, throat, or a urinary tract infection caused by viruses or bacteria
- Infectious disease, such as AIDS, which can be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood or semen
An infection management plan is expected to help:
- Prevent an infection from occurring or spreading
- Relieve the symptoms
- Treat the infection itself
- Control the spread of an infectious disease
How is the Procedure Performed?
Preventing an infection from occurring or spreading requires a combination of different protective techniques, such as:
- Proper hygiene – This refers to the development of proper washing and cleaning habits.
- Personal protective equipment – This refers to the use of personal protective equipment when appropriate. This usually becomes necessary when there is a risk of an infection caused by exposure to bodily fluids.
- Sterilization and re-processing – This includes the repetitive cleaning and sterilization of objects that are re-used; some examples are linen and towels.
- Safe disposal of materials that can potentially cause infection – This refers to the proper handling and disposal of materials, such as biological waste products, that may cause infections.
- Aseptic techniques
- Environmental spills management
- Environmental cleaning processes
In the hospital, the management of an infection or infectious disease also involves:
Isolation facilities – These are specially designed rooms that allow patients suffering from infectious diseases to be isolated or quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease while the patient is receiving treatment.
Respiratory masks and other protective gear – These are used by hospital personnel tasked to administer medications and other treatment methods to a patient in isolation. The protective gear includes disposable covering for the whole body such as gowns, eye goggles, and gloves.
Immunization programs – These refer to providing or rolling out vaccines or immunizations for people who are at risk of a specific type of infection.
Infections can also be prevented by taking precautionary medications, such as a course of antibiotics, which can keep an infection from developing. This technique is usually used in keeping surgical wounds from becoming infected.
The management of ongoing infections or an existing infectious disease begins with a diagnosis, which entails analyzing the patient’s medical and family history, followed by a physical examination supported by laboratory tests. The diagnosis will help the physician assess whether the patient can be treated at home or requires hospital care. At this point, the doctor will also be able to determine whether any heightened precautionary measures are necessary, such as isolating the patient.
Treating the actual infection, on the other hand, requires the use of different techniques and methodologies depending on the specific type of infection or disease involved. However, the process usually includes:
- Oral medications, such as antibiotics or antiviral medicines
- Topical ointments, such as antifungal creams
- NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which can help relieve the pain and swelling commonly associated with infections
During the treatment process, the patient’s progress is closely monitored. It is important to assess whether the symptoms are improving or are getting worse. This helps determine whether the treatment plan is working as expected. Otherwise, modifications will be required.
It is important that a patient completes an entire course of antibiotic therapy to keep the bacteria from becoming resistant to the effects of the medication. Long-term infection management, such as placing a patient on a prolonged course of antibiotic therapy, is also crucial for recurrent infections, or those that occur more than four times in a year.
Possible Risks and Complications
If an infection is not managed on an individual level, the patient will face serious health risks, including death. Unfortunately, there are some factors that can make it difficult to manage an infection. These factors include:
Resistance to the medication being used – This commonly occurs when medications are not used properly
Compromised immune system – This makes a patient more prone to developing infections repeatedly, making long-term management of infection necessary.
On a community level, improper management of an infection can also lead to serious consequences on a larger scale, such as a widespread infection (an outbreak) or multiple deaths. Unfortunately, while some types of infection have been wiped out (such as smallpox), and some types can now be effectively prevented through vaccinations (such as measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and many others), there are some types of infections that are more difficult to contain. One example is the viral infection that causes the common cold. This is because the bacteria or virus that causes them have the ability to mutate as it spreads, rendering vaccinations or immunizations practically impossible.
- Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care:
- March 2008 - Volume 64 - Issue 3 - pp S277-S286