New Federal Guidelines on Preventing Catheter-Related Infections

Following them can improve patient safety and reduce medical costs. Such infections are now considered largely preventable, experts say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NIH have revised their guidelines for preventing catheter-related bloodstream infections, which rank among the most deadly and expensive patient safety risks. CDC's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee released the guidelines, which were developed by a working group headed by clinical scientists from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Critical Care Medicine Department and 14 other professional organizations.

"The publication of these guidelines is a great contribution to the continued improvement of quality patient care," said NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins, "and is illustrative of the power of collaboration across government agencies and with academic institutions."

The guidelines emphasize educating and training health care personnel, using maximal sterile barrier precautions during catheter insertion, cleaning skin with chlorhexidine (an antibacterial scrub), and avoiding routine replacement of certain catheters. These guidelines replace a 2001 edition and are published April 1 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. They are availalbe at the HICPAC website and will be published in a supplement to the American Journal of Infection Control.

"Preventing these infections is an excellent example of how hospitals and other health care facilities can improve patient care and save lives, all while reducing excess medical costs," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., MPH, CDC's director.

"Catheter-related bloodstream infections, like many infections in health care, are now seen as largely preventable," said lead author Dr. Naomi O'Grady, M.D., medical director of procedures, vascular access, and conscious sedation services at the NIH Clinical Center CCMD. "Implementation of these critical infection control guidelines is an important benchmark of health care quality and patient safety."

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