Central Line Infections

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When a child is sick, it's sometimes necessary to deliver fluid, blood, or medication intravenously, through an IV tube (also known as a central line) that's inserted into a large vein in the neck, chest or arm.

IV treatments are quick and effective, but they do carry some risks, including infection. If bacteria or other germs travel down the central line and enter the bloodstream, an infection in the body can occur. Central-line infection rates are an important measure of safety and quality.

How are we doing?

Boston Children's Hospital participates in the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The network tracks health care-related infections reported in intensive care units (ICUs) around the country.

In 2013, the NHSN set the benchmark below which hospitals should stay at 1.7 infections for every 1,000 days that patients have a central line inserted. (For example: If 500 patients each have a line inserted for two days, that equals 1,000 central-line days.)

The lower the infection rate, the better. In 2014, we had a rate of 1.04 infections per 1,000 central-line days across our Hematology-Oncology unit and the
Pediatric, Cardiac and Neonatal ICUs.

Number of Central-Line Infections
Per 1,000 Patient-Line Days

(Last updated: March 30, 2015. All charts show most recent available data.)

As the dark green line at the bottom of this graph shows, however, our ultimate target is zero infections.

What are we doing to improve?

Minimizing and eliminating central-line infections is a matter of constant diligence. We review instances of infection, discovering new ways we can improve, and designing processes that reduce the risk of introducing infection.

How do we compare to other hospitals?

The NHSN gathers infection data from hospitals around the country and uses that data to produce its benchmarks. Thanks to the NHSN benchmarks, we know that our infection rates have been below the national average since 2009.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944