Central Line Infections on Decline, But Many Hospitals Fail to Report Data

A new study on central line infections finds that while some hospitals are winning the fight to reduce the number of hospital infections, others have refused to acknowledge that there’s a battle going on. 

Many of the nation’s hospitals, including some traditionally well-respected facilities, refuse to release data on the number of central line infections suffered by their patients, according to a new study conducted by Consumer Reports. However, researchers found that a growing number of hospitals who do release data appear to have successfully eliminated the dangerous infections.

The researchers found 146 U.S. hospitals that reported no central-line infections from February 2010 to June 2011, representing almost 13% of those surveyed. That’s an increase from 11% in a previous Consumer Reports study. Earlier this year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 58% drop in intensive care unit (ICU) central line infections nationwide.

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A list of leading hospitals that do not make infection data publicly available was published by the researchers. While some states have regulations requiring hospitals to report infections, others do not. Some of the facilities that do not publish their central line infection rates include Georgetown University Hospital, Duke University Hospital, and Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, according to the report.

Consumer Reports looked at data on central-line infection data for intensive care units in more than 1,100 hospitals nationwide. While there are about 3,300 facilities in the U.S. that provide intensive care units, many had too few patients to report statistically meaningful data, according to researchers.

Central line infections are among the deadliest types of hospital-acquired infections. The name comes from the fact that they are typically associated with patients who have a central line catheter installed long-term so they can be given medication or other liquids in much larger amounts than can be delivered by a typical IV unit.

According to Consumer Reports, central line infections only account for about 15% of the 1.7 million hospital infections in the U.S. each year, but they are responsible for 30% of the estimated 99,000 hospital infection-related fatalities.

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as experts believe that most of these potentially life-threatening infections in hospitals can be prevented if steps are taken by the facility and staff.

Consumer Reports highlighted a checklist developed to reduce the risk of central-line infections. The checklist calls for healthcare professionals to:

  • Wash their hands before, and after examining patients or handling the catheter in any way
  • Disinfect the patient’s skin before inserting the catheter and during dressing changes
  • Use full-barrier precautions, including mask, cap, gown and gloves and covering the patient with a sterile sheet
  • Avoid groin catheters if possible, as it is one of the most difficult areas to keep clean.
  • Regularly evaluate the need for catheters and remove them when unnecessary.

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