Medical Definition of Nosocomial

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Nosocomial: Originating or taking place in a hospital, acquired in a hospital, especially in reference to an infection.

The term "nosocomial" comes from two Greek words: "nosus" meaning "disease" + "komeion" meaning "to take care of." Hence, "nosocomial" should apply to any disease contracted by a patient while under medical care. However, common usage of the term "nosocomial" is now synonymous with hospital-acquired. Nosocomial infections are infections that have been caught in a hospital and are potentially caused by organisms that are resistant to antibiotics. A nosocomial infection is specifically one that was not present or incubating prior to the patient's being admitted to the hospital, but occurring within 72 hours after admittance to the hospital.

A bacterium named Clostridium difficile is now recognized as the chief cause of nosocomial diarrhea in the US and Europe. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics and may be acquired during hospitalization.

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Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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