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Central line infections - hospitals

Alternate Names

Central line-associated bloodstream infection; CLABSI; Peripherally inserted central catheter - infection; PICC - infection; Central venous catheter - infection; CVC - infection; Central venous device - infection

Description

You have a central line. This is a long tube (catheter) that goes into a vein in your chest or arm and ends at your heart. Your central line will carry nutrients and medicine into your body. It can also be used to take blood when you need to have blood tests.

Central line infections are very serious. They can make you sick and increase how long you are in the hospital. Your central line needs special care  to prevent infection.

Preventing Central Line Infections in the Hospital

You may have a central line if you:

  • Need antibiotics or other medicines for weeks or months
  • Require nutrition because your bowels are not working correctly
  • Need kidney dialysis
  • Have poor venous access

Anyone who has a central line can get an infection. Your risk is higher if you:

  • Are in the intensive care unit (ICU)
  • Have a weakened immune system or serious illness
  • Are having a bone marrow transplant or chemotherapy
  • Have the line for a long time
  • Have a central line in your neck or groin

What the Hospital Should Do

The hospital staff will use aseptic technique when a central line is put in your chest or arm. Aseptic technique means keeping everything as sterile as possible. They will:

  • Wash their hands
  • Put on a mask, gown, cap and sterile gloves
  • Clean the site where the central line will be placed
  • Use a sterile cover for your body
  • Make sure everything they touch during the procedure is sterile
  • Cover the catheter with gauze or clear plastic tape once it is in place

Hospital staff should check your central line every day to make sure it is in the right place and to look for signs of infection. The gauze or tape over the site should be changed if it is dirty.

How You Can Help During Your Hospital Stay

ke sure not to touch your central line unless you have washed your hands.

Tell you nurse if your central line:

  • Gets dirty
  • Is coming out of your vein
  • Is leaking, or the catheter is cut or cracked

You can take a shower when your doctor says it is okay to do so. Your nurse will help you cover your central line when you shower to keep it clean and dry.

Signs of Infection to Watch for

If you notice any of these signs of infection, tell your doctor or nurse right away.

  • Redness at the site or red streaks around the site
  • Swelling or warmth at the site
  • Yellow or green drainage
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Fever

Review Date: 4/9/2012
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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