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Central Line Infections Are Preventable

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Central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) can be significantly reduced by using  basic infection prevention methods, as reported by Reuters Health Information service and in Critical Care Medicine. Central lines are used commonly to monitor and treat patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). Approximately 120,000 CLABSIs occur each year in ICUs resulting in 31,000 deaths. Five (5) preventive measures reduced these infections by over 80%:

  1. Hand washing before line placement;
  2. Full barrier precautions (such as draping the patient in sterile sheets, the use of hat, gloves, mask and gown);
  3. Avoidance of placement of the central line in the groin (femoral placement);
  4. Using chlorhexidine to cleanse the skin; and 
  5. Removing other unnecessary intravenous lines

This is important because CLABSIs kill 31,000 patients in ICUs each year and cost an estimated cost $9 billion annually.

This evidence based study was conducted in 45 ICUs in 35 hospitals and was conducted over 19 months to show that these results were sustainable. Many clinicians look at randomized studies based on clinical evidence as the strongest indicator of whether a treatment works. This study showed that infection rates can be reduced to very low levels with the implementation of these five basic precautions. Furthermore, this reduction in CLABSIs was a result of a nurse led interventions and confirms the important role that nurses play in affecting the quality and safety of patient care.

While some are unavoidable complications of treatment, most CLABSIs can be prevented by following these 5 simple rules. When a CLABSI occurs in a hospitalized patient, it is important that the medical treatment be reviewed for preventable causes  and/or failure to follow basic prevention practices. Infections that result from preventable causes are not complications and, based on this study, are caused by negligent departures from the standard of care required of physicians and nurses.

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