Other Healthcare Associated Infections Measures

Improvement Stories

Preventing Central Line Infections: Saving Lives and Dollars

Central-Line Associated Bloodstream Infections in the ICU

What are we measuring and why?

For patients in the ICU, a central line is often necessary to receive fluids and medication. Sometimes, patients can develop bloodstream infections associated with these catheters. This is called a "central line associated bloodstream infection", and it can lead to serious complications. To reduce the risk of infection, it is important to remove the line as soon as it is no longer medically necessary, as well as maintain the cleanliness of the line and insertion site while it is in place. MGH monitors the rate of central line infections developed in intensive care units by the number of line days (number of patients in a day with at least one central line). 

How are we doing and how do we compare to best practice?

MGH provides care in several different types of ICUs and tracks central line associated infections in each unit. The rate across all ICUs is reported on a semiannual basis in the table below. We compare our performance to national benchmarks published by the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

  Rate Comparator Number of
Line Days
Jan-Jun 11 1.23   1.7   15   12212  
Jul-Dec 11 1.52   1.7   20   13135  
Jan-Jun 12 1.22   1.4   17   13946  
Jul-Dec 12 1.37   1.4   20   14552  
Jan-Jun 13 1.53   1.4   23   15046  
Jul-Dec 13 1.47   1.4   21   14283  
Jan-Jun 14 1.19   1.2   17   14234  
Jul-Dec 14 1.27   1.2   18   14207  
Jan-Jun 15 1.14   1.1   16   14022  
Jul-Dec 15 1.10   1.1   15   13587  
Jan-Jun 16 1.37   1.1   19   13885  
Jul-Dec 16 0.94   1.1   13   13849  

Source for data: MGH Infection Control
MGH ICUs: Burn ICU, Coronary Care ICU, Cardiac Surgery ICU, Medical ICU, Neuro ICU, Neonatal ICU,
Pediatric ICU, and Surgical ICU

What are we doing to improve?

MGH has ongoing efforts aimed at reducing the rate of preventable central line associated bloodstream infections. This includes observing best practice techniques outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as proper hand hygiene, cleansing of the patient's skin before line placement and using full barrier precautions during the insertion, and early line removal. In addition, we bathe patients in the ICU with chlorhexidine on a daily basis and use special chlorhexidine sponge dressings on all central lines to reduce the risk of infection.

What can you do?

Before placement of a central line, patients are encouraged to remind their care team to take necessary precautions to reduce the risk of infection. Patients and family members should also feel empowered to ask about the necessity of their central line to ensure that it is appropriate and removed as soon as possible.

Click here for a patient friendly information sheet on preventing central line infections.


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