Patient safety

Preventing bloodstream infections from central line venous catheters

Eliminating catheter related bloodstream infections

Central venous catheters are life-saving and the majority of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) have them placed in order to receive medicine and fluids. However, the use of these can result in serious bloodstream infections. Bloodstream infections associated with the insertion and maintenance of central venous catheters (CVC) are among the most dangerous complications that can occur. These complications worsen patients’ health, prolong hospital stay and increase the cost of care.

Key facts

  • Catheter-related bloodstream infection (CRBSI) is the most common cause of health care-associated infection to the bloodstream.
  • According to US CDC, between 12 and 25% of patients who acquire CRBSI die; many others have extended hospital stays, and increased overall treatment costs.
  • Each year in the United States, central venous catheters may cause an estimated 80 000 catheter-related bloodstream infections in ICUs.
    A total of 250 000 cases of BSIs have been estimated to occur annually if entire hospitals are assessed and, as a result, up to 62 000 deaths among patients in hospitals.
  • A single incident of CRBSI can cost as much as US$ 56 000 to treat according to some studies, once the cost of pharmacy charges, catheter changes, lab tests and an additional day in the ICU are added up.
  • PROHIBIT - Prevention of Hospital Infections by Intervention & Training
    PROHIBIT is a project funded by the European Commission and based on a consortium of European institutions coordinated by the University of Geneva, Switzerland (Infection Control Programme and WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety). WHO HQ participated in designing the project and is coordinating the dissemination of the PROHIBIT findings.
  • A success story to eliminate bloodstream infections
    A team from Johns Hopkins University led by Professor Peter Pronovost developed an intervention to decrease the incidence of bloodstream infections. Participating ICUs reduced their central line-associated bloodstream infections to 0%. If these results could be replicated in other settings, could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide.
  • Bacteriemia-zero
    Bacteriemia Zero aimed to reduce the rate of catheter-related bloodstream infections within Spanish intensive care units and to demonstrate that the results obtained in Michigan State, USA, could effectively be replicated after contextual adaptation in large scale implementation in Spanish ICUs. After 18 months of implementation the infection rates were successfully reduced by 50% in the participating ICUs.