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Some hospitals have a zero rate of central line infections, while others have over 200% more infections than normal. How can this be?

Let’s look at the data. Central line infections occur when unsterile procedures are used to place large intravenous catheters in critically ill patients. These large catheters are used to deliver medications, nutrition and fluids to patients when a normal IV is not adequate. But, they can also deliver deadly bacteria directly into the bloodstream. They are nothing like an ordinary IV. These catheters are long lines that thread through a large vein that leads directly to the patient’s heart.

Every time a health care provider touches one of these catheters, there is a risk of introducing bacterial contamination unless strict sterile procedures are used. By using a simple five step program the great majority of these infections can be prevented.

After years of research, Peter Pronovost, M. D. Ph. D, combined the research into five simple life saving steps. Pronovost tested his checklist in 67 hospitals in Michigan and found a 66% reduction in central line associated bloodstream infections. The results were published in the Dec. 28, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Not all hospitals have adopted this simple checklist. Has yours? Here is the checklist.

Caregivers should:

  • 1. Wash their hands using soap and water or alcohol gel. Do so before and after examining the patient, inserting the catheter, and replacing, accessing repairing, and dressing the catheter
  • 2. Disinfect the patient’s skin using a 2% Chlorhexidine-based preparation or other appropriate antiseptic before inserting the catheter and during dressing changes.
  • 3. Maintain aseptic technique by wearing a mask, cap, sterile gown, and sterile gloves when inserting the catheter.
  • 4. Avoid placing the catheter in the groin, if possible.
  • 5. Evaluate daily, whether any catheters or tubes that are no longer essential can be removed.

Ask your hospital about Dr. Pronovost’s checklist…it might save your life.

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