Central Line Blood Infections Cut 40% in ICU with Improved Safety Culture

New safety guidelines may allow hospitals to cut their rate of central line blood infections nearly in half, according to a recent report on a new patient safety project. 

The report involved the largest national study of its kind, using a Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP) as guidelines to help healthcare providers improve the safety culture at adult intensive care units (ICU) and reduce the risk of central line blood infections.

According to a press release issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the patient safety project resulted in a 40% reduction in central line infections across 1,100 adult ICUs in 44 states.

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The report suggests that more than 500 lives were saved, nearly 2,000 Central line associated blood stream infections (CLABSIs) were prevented and more than $34 million in health care costs were avoided by the project.

Central line blood infections (PDF) are a type of healthcare associated infection that affects patients hospitalized and treated for a different condition. A central line is an intravenous catheter that is inserted directly into a major vein, near to the heart, to draw or transfuse blood or insert medications or fluids. CLABSIs are infections that are contracted in a hospital setting within a 48-hour window after the central line has been placed.

It is estimated that 41,000 CLABSIs occur in the U.S. each year, nearly one in every 20 people hospitalized will get one. CLABSIs usually results in prolonged hospital visits, increased risk of mortality and increased healthcare costs.

The hospitals involved in this study were able to reduce the occurrence of infections from 1.903 per 1,000 central line days to 1.137 per 1,000 line days with the use of CUSP guidelines.

CUSP, developed by Johns Hopkins Medicine, is a customizable program that helps hospital clinical teams address the care of patients by identifying safety problems, such as hand washing, and providing the tools to address the problems. CUSP includes a procedure checklist, staff education and a shift in culture to consider infections as unacceptable.

CUSP was first implemented as a broad-scale application in Michigan and was able to significantly reduce the number of CLABSIs in Michigan. Following the success there, it was expanded to 10 more states and finally expanded on a national level.

“This partnership between the federal government and hospitals provides clear evidence that we can protect patients from these deadly infections,” said AHA President and CEO Richard J. Umbdenstock in the press release. “Hospitals remain committed to curtailing CLABSIs and enhancing safety in all clinical settings. Tools such as CUSP go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.”


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