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Blood Stream Infections

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 248,000 bloodstream infections occur in U.S. hospitals each year. Many of these are in patients who have a central vascular catheter (central line). Central lines are not typical IVs; they are inserted through the skin and may stay in place for weeks to months or longer. They are important for pediatric patients who cannot live without constant lifesaving medications.

Central line associated blood stream infections 

Central line blood stream infections account for about 15 percent of all hospital infections. They are often serious infections that may cause a longer hospital stay, higher cost and risk of death. Treatment for each central line blood stream infection costs an estimated $20,000 to $40,000.

Central line blood stream infections can be reduced or prevented if everyone touching the line follows best practices and infection control guidelines. Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or appropriate alcohol-based hand cleaners before or after caring for the central line is just one important step. If the area around the central line becomes sore or red, or if the bandage becomes wet, dirty or falls off, a nurse or doctor should be notified at once. Central lines should be removed as soon as they are no longer needed.

Who is impacted?

Each year more than 5 million central lines are placed in patients in the U.S. Some are required for only a week or so. Others may be in place for months or years. Patients requiring central lines are at risk for developing a central line blood stream infection.

What does this all mean?

Many groups that focus on patient safety consider central line blood stream infections to be preventable. Children's Mercy has made it a priority to increase central line care awareness among staff and families. A hospital committee was formed to determine central line best practices and to make sure we provide the best central line care. This committee, composed of health care workers who are responsible for insertion and maintenance of central lines, also asked for input from parents of former patients to ensure families' voices were included in the final decisions.

Our goal as a hospital is to reduce central line blood stream infections by 50 percent every six months until we reach zero. Once we have reached this goal, we will continue striving to maintain a zero infection rate. Since initiating the committee, we have seen an overall decrease in central line blood stream infections at Children's Mercy.


The graph below shows the total number of central line blood stream infections per 1,000 central line days. The number of central line days is based on the number of patients in the hospital who have a central line and the length of time they are here. For example, if one patient had a central line for 20 days and another patient had a central line for 30 days that would equal 50 line days.

Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) graph

Access a text-only version of the Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) graph above.