Central line-associated bloodstream infections are a serious problem

6931012_sWhile receiving medical care of any kind has its associated risks, patients who are admitted to hospitals or other care facilities in Nevada have the right to expect that they will receive the best possible level of care. However, many individuals and their families must deal with the consequences of receiving sub-par care that results in extra illness or infection, such as seen with central line-associated bloodstream infections. CLABSIs are common, completely preventable conditions that thousands of patients across the U.S. acquire in medical facilities each year, many of which end in death.

What is a CLABSI? 

When hospital doctors must have access to the bloodstream they usually place an intravenous catheter in a vein near the surface of the skin, usually on the arm or hand, for a short period of time. These catheters, or tubes, can be used to administer medicine or fluids, or can be the access point for withdrawing blood for testing and analysis. In some instances a more permanent IV is needed, and doctors request that a central line be used. Central lines are similar to IVs but vary in their location. They are placed in a large vein in a patient’s neck, groin, chest, or arm with an end point near the heart. They may stay there for weeks or months at a time, functioning in the same way as a regular IV.

When negligent staff improperly insert a central line or do not care for it in the proper way, infection can occur. When bacteria, viruses or other germs enter the bloodstream through the catheter and it leads to an infection, a central line-associated blood stream infection has occurred. This is extremely dangerous because a central line gives direct access to the heart. An infection can spread rapidly throughout an individual’s blood stream, leading to increased hospital stays, additional treatment for the infection, and a higher probability of death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 41,000 CLABSIs occur each year. 

What can hospitals do to prevent CLABSIs? 

Cleanliness is the best prevention for CLABSIs. When healthcare providers insert the catheter for the central line, it is imperative that they reduce medical errors by using proper insertion practices in order to keep the area completely sterile, or free of germs. This includes the following:

  • Wash hands well with soap and water.
  • Apply appropriate skin antiseptic to the area.
  • Ensure that all skin prep agent has dried before inserting the central line.
  • Apply all sterile barrier precautions, including sterile gloves, cap, sterile gown, mask and large sterile drape. 

Once the line has been placed, medical staff should maintain the site properly by scrubbing the port used to insert and withdraw fluids prior to each use. They should immediately replace dressings when necessary and always use sterile techniques to keep infection at bay. Following these simple prevention techniques have been proven to reduce the incidence of CLABSIs and save lives.