Kidney and bladder health

24 January 2017

Better safety measures may reduce catheter infections

Hospitals that adopt new procedures to improve catheter safety may reap the benefits of fewer infections and greater health care savings, a new study finds.


Improved catheter safety measures in hospitals significantly reduce bloodstream infections and health care costs, a new study indicates.

Central venous catheters

"Safety interventions are a win-win for both patients and hospitals," said study leader Dr Teryl Nuckols of Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles. She is director of the centre's division of general internal medicine.

More than 60,000 primary bloodstream infections related to central venous catheters occur each year in the United States. About 12 percent of these infections end in death, according to background notes with the study.

Read: Urinary tract infection

These catheters, also known as central lines, are widely used in intensive care units. They're placed in large veins in the arm, chest, neck or groin to deliver medications, fluids or blood to patients.

To prevent serious infections, hospitals have introduced new safety procedures in recent years. They include using sterile gloves, covering catheters with antimicrobial dressings and checking catheters daily for signs of movement or infection. Many hospitals have also added extra training, equipment and supplies.

A variety of safety practices

For this study, Nuckols and her colleagues analysed data on catheter-related bloodstream infections at 113 US hospitals over the past decade.

Read: Hospital Acquired Infections

On average, improved catheter safety measures reduced infections by 57 percent. They also lowered the cost of treating such infections by $1.85 million at each hospital over three years, according to the study.

"Due to the high cost of caring for patients when central-line infections develop, even sizable upfront investments in infection prevention can be associated with large net savings," Nuckols said in a medical centre news release.

"On the basis of our findings, hospitals that have not yet achieved very low rates of infection can consider implementing a variety of safety practices," she said.

The study results were published in the journal Jama Internal Medicine.

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