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CDC: 58% drop in central line infections in ICUs

March 1, 2011

CDC Report Shows 58 Percent Drop in Central Line Bloodstream Infections in Hospital ICUs;
Consumer Reports Health Reporting Similar Trends

Report Shows Infections Are Preventable But More Effort Is Needed To Protect Patients

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a significant decrease in certain infections over the past nine years. The report found that central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) occurring in hospital intensive care units dropped by 58 percent between 2001 and 2009.
The report demonstrates that CLABSIs are preventable but that more effort is needed to protect patients throughout all hospital wards and from other kinds of infections that are all too common, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
“Hospitals can reduce central line infections significantly if they focus on prevention,” said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project (www.safepatientproject.org). “While this latest report offers encouraging news, most CLABSIs happen outside of intensive care units and there are many other kinds of infections that are just as dangerous that should be getting the same attention. The bottom line is that most infections could be prevented if hospitals worked harder and invested more to protect patients.”
In addition, Consumer Reports Health has posted updated infection rates for 1,043 U.S. hospitals and a list of hospitals reporting zero central line infections. According to the Consumer Reports Health data, the percentage of facilities reporting no central-line infections in their intensive care units increased slightly, from 11 percent in CRH’s March 2010 analysis to 13 percent.
“We applaud the hospitals reporting zero infections, but at the same time, more needs to be done at hospitals, including those we look to for leadership,” said John Santa, M.D., M.P.H., director, Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. “Two prominent institutions, the University of Maryland and Cleveland Clinic, have infection rates near double the national average. Both are involved in efforts to reduce these infections that will hopefully lead to results similar to other hospitals with successful prevention programs like Kaiser Woodland Hills in California.”
Bloodstream infections cause at least one-third of the almost 100,000 hospital infection-related deaths in the U.S. CLABSIs are a type of infection caused by the presence of a central line catheter. A “central line” or “central catheter” is a tube that is placed in the neck, chest, arm, or groin so doctors can draw blood, or give fluids, bloods, or medications. A bloodstream infection can occur when bacteria or other germs travel down the central line and enter the bloodstream.
Consumers Union noted that the CDC’s report documenting a decrease in CLABSIs would not have been possible without laws adopted in 27 states and the District of Columbia that have mandated public reporting of infection rates. While these laws vary from state to state, almost all require hospitals to report CLABSI rates in intensive care units.
“Requiring hospitals to disclose their infection rates has made it possible to track progress and hold hospitals accountable for protecting patients,” said McGiffert. “Making this information public also has created a powerful motivator for hospitals to do a better job of preventing infections.”
Beginning this year, hospitals throughout the country are required to track and report to the CDC when patients get CLABSIs in intensive care units. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to issue a public report on hospital-specific CLABSI infection rates later in the year.
The Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center makes available for subscribers hospital-specific infection rates in those states that have already issued reports. For more information, see: http://www.consumerreportshealth.org
For more information on hospital infection reporting laws, see:
For copies of hospital infection reports issued by states that require them, see:
Michael McCauley: 415-431-6747, ext 126, mccami@consumer.org
Lisa McGiffert: 512-477-4431, ext 115, lmcgiffert@consumer.org
Tildy La Farge: 914-378-2436, tlafarge@consumer.org