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A central line catheter is a catheter placed into a large vein in the neck, chest, or groin. It is used to administer medication or fluids. Certain medications, such as inotropes and amiodarone are usualloy given through a central line.

According to the CDC, each year, an estimated 250,000 cases of central line bloodstream infections occur in hospitals in the United States, with an estimated mortality of 12%–25% for each infection The marginal cost to the health-care system is approximately $25,000 per episode .

In 2001, the CDC was invited by the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative to provide technical assistance for a hospital-based intervention to prevent central line infections among intensive care unit (ICU) patients in southwestern Pennsylvania. During a 4-year period, central line infection rates among ICU patients declined 68%, from 4.31 to 1.36 per 1,000 central line days. The results suggest that a coordinated, multi-institutional infection-control initiative is an effective approach to reducing hospital acquired infections.

The best prevention for hospital acquired infection is a patient who is not afraid to ask or question their health care provider. If you need a "central line" catheter, ask your doctor about the benefits of one that is antibiotic-impregnated or silver-chlorhexidine coated to reduce infections.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends use of antibiotic catheters as one of its eleven patient safety practices. The Annals of Internal Medicine contains an excellent article on the prevention of hospital acquired infections; "Central venous catheters coated with Minocycline and Rifampin for the prevention of catheter-related colonization and bloodstream infections," Annals of Internal Medicine 127.4 (1997): 267-274.

Remember, patient safety starts with you.

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