Hospital ICUs Chart Progress in Preventing Central-Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections


New CDC research published in the June issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology estimates that as many as 200,000 central-line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) in ICUs nationally have been prevented since 1990.3 The report indicates much of the success is due to U.S. hospitals adopting successful prevention strategies, namely the dissemination of guideline-supported central-line insertion and maintenance best practices, infection-control treatment bundles, and widespread availability of alcohol-based hand rubs.

Between 462,000 and 636,000 CLABSIs occurred in non-neonatal ICU patients from 1990-2010, CDC estimates, about 104,000 to 198,000 less CLABSIs than would have occurred if rates had remained the same as they were in 1990.

“These findings suggest that technical innovations and dissemination of evidence-based CLABSI prevention practices have likely been effective on a national scale,” Matthew Wise, PhD, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Hospitalists must be aware of the distorted financial incentives that may affect how they provide care to patients.

At the same time, a CLABSI-reduction intervention in a hospital in Hawaii found that while the costs of care were much higher for patients who developed a CLABSI, reimbursement and the hospital’s margin also were higher (margin of $54,906 vs. $6,506).4 The authors conclude that current reimbursement practices offer a perverse incentive for hospitals to have more line infections, “while an optimal reimbursement system would reward them for prevention rather than treating illness.”

Lead author Eugene Hsu, MD, MBA, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said in an email that the study demonstrates how a quality initiative led by providers and funded by a major commercial insurer can save both lives and money. “Hospitalists, like all healthcare providers, must be aware of the distorted financial incentives that may affect how they provide care to patients,” Dr. Hsu said.

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in Oakland, Calif.


  1. Stobbe, M. Germ-zapping “robots”: Hospitals combat superbugs. Associated Press website. Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/hospitals-see-surge-superbug-fighting-products. Accessed June 7, 2013.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6209a3.htm?s_cid=mm6209a3_w. Accessed June 7, 2013.
  3. Wise ME, Scott RD, Baggs JM, et al. National estimates of central line-associated bloodstream infections in critical care patients. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol, 2013;34(6):547-554.
  4. Hsu E, Lin D, Evans SJ, et al. Doing well by doing good: assessing the cost savings of an intervention to reduce central line-associated bloodstream infections in a Hawaii hospital. Am J Med Qual, 2013 May 7 [Epub ahead of print].
  5. Association of American Medical Colleges. Medical school enrollment on pace to reach 30 percent increase by 2017. Association of American Medical Colleges website. Available at: https://www.aamc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/ 335244/050213.html. Accessed June 7, 2013.

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