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Report: ICU Central-Line Infection Rate Drops

Good news from the CDC: the number of central-line bloodstream infections in intensive-care patients dropped 58% to an estimated 18,000 in 2009 from 43,000 in 2001.

Why is that important? Because someday you, too, may end up in the ICU with a tube in a chest or neck vein, and you really don’t want that tube to spark a blood infection. The death rate hovers between 12% and 25% for ICU patients when it does, according to the report. Also, because the drop saved an estimated $1.8 billion.

CDC head Thomas Frieden credited the decrease in ICU infections to targeted efforts by public-health and other groups, including asking the basic question of whether a central line is really necessary.

The next infection-prevention frontiers are non-ICU areas of the hospital, where an estimated 23,000 central-line infections occurred in 2009, and outpatient kidney dialysis facilities, where there were an estimated 37,000 infections in 2008. Given the stats on dialysis, that works out to about one in ten dialysis recipients getting a potentially life-threatening infection each year, Frieden said.

Those can be avoided in part by avoiding the use of central lines in dialysis patients in favor of other methods, the report said. We reached out to Kidney Care Partners, an advocacy and lobbying group for dialysis providers, patients and others, and in a statement they said they were “fiercely committed to reducing life-threatening infections among dialysis patients by decreasing the use of catheters.”

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