Safety: Central Line Infections in Intensive Care Units
Why is this measure important?
A central line is a tube that is placed in a large vein in the neck, chest or arm to quickly deliver fluid, blood or medication that the patient needs. An infection can occur when bacteria or other germs travel down the central line and enter the bloodstream.
Central line bloodstream infections can be very dangerous and are believed to be the cause of nearly a third of all infection-related deaths in U.S. hospitals today. They are also estimated to add $42,000 to the average hospital bills of patients who get central line infections while they are in the hospital.
How do we track this measure?
As part of our hospital’s infection control program, we routinely track the number of central line-associated infections that occur in all four of our intensive care units. Our goal is to have no central line-associated infections.
How do we compare to other hospitals?
As of the third quarter of 2010, our central line infection rate was below the national rate reported for other hospitals by the federal Centers for Disease Control through its National Healthcare Safety Network. We had no central line infections in our medical/surgical ICU. The infection rate is the number of infections per 1,000 central line days (the number of days that patients are on central lines).
What are we doing to improve?
In addition to avoiding the use of central lines whenever possible, we are working to ensure that when they are needed, central lines are inserted under the most antiseptic conditions possible. We use antibiotic-coated catheters in patients who are at high risk of infection. Whenever an infection occurs, we do a thorough analysis to determine the cause of the infection.
We participate in the National Association of Children’s Hospital and Related Institutions’ Bloodstream Infection Initiative, which is working to reduce the number of central line infections in children’s hospitals. We are also doing our own research to identify reasons why some patients appear to be at higher risk of central line infections.