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In the Literature: Research You Need to Know


Clinical question: What is the impact, and sustainability, of chlorhexidine bathing on central-venous-catheter-associated bloodstream infections?

Background: Chlorhexidine bathing has been associated with reductions in healthcare-associated bloodstream infections, including vancomycin-resistant enterococci and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. No prospective studies have evaluated the impact and sustainability of chlorhexidine bathing.

Study design: Prospective, three-phase study.

Setting: Medical-surgical ICUs and respiratory-care units at five New York hospitals.

Synopsis: In the pre-intervention phase (six to nine months, 1,808 admissions), patients were bathed with soap and water or nonmedicated bathing cloths. In the intervention phase (eight months, 1,832 admissions), patients were bathed with 2% chlorhexidine cloths. In the post-intervention phase (12 months, 2,834 admissions), chlorhexidine bathing was continued without oversight by researchers.

During the intervention phase, there were significantly fewer central-venous-catheter-associated bloodstream infections (2.6/1,000 catheter days vs. 6.4/1,000 pre-intervention). The reductions in bloodstream infections were sustained during the post-intervention period (2.9/1,000 catheter days). Compliance with chlorhexidine bathing was 82% and 88% during the intervention and post-intervention phases, and was well tolerated by the patients.

Limitations of this study include lack of patient-specific data and severity of illness data, as well as lack of randomization and blinding. Although not evaluated in this study, the savings associated with decreased bloodstream infections likely outweigh the cost of chlorhexidine bathing.

Bottom line: Chlorhexidine bathing is a well-tolerated, sustainable intervention that significantly reduces central-venous-catheter-associated bloodstream infections.

Citation: Montecalvo MA, McKenna D, Yarrish R, et al. Chlorhexidine bathing to reduce central venous catheter-associated bloodstream infection: impact and sustainability.Am J Med. 2012;125(5):505-511.

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