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Central Venous Line and Infections (part I)

A central venous line (central line, central venous catheter) is a long, thin, soft plastic tube that is introduced through a small cut in the skin into a large vein in the neck (internal jugular vein), arm ( arm vein), chest (subclavian vein) or groin (femoral vein). It is used to administer fluids, blood products, nutrients and medications over an extended period of time.

A central venous line is often placed in patients who require care in the intensive care unit to provide nutrition, medication and fluids. Infection can be one of the complications associated with the use of a central venous catheter. Blood stream infection can happen when bacteria and/or fungi enter the blood stream. Other complications may include bleeding, pain, blockage, kinking or shifting of the catheter, air embolism and lung collapse.

As the central venous line is introduced through an opening in the skin, bacteria can grow in this line making the patient more susceptible for blood born infection. Infections associated with a central venous line can be very serious as the bacteria causing these infections can multiply and spread quickly to the entire blood stream causing septicemia which can be fatal.

A Consumer Reports analysis of newly released data revealed that central line infections account for 15 percent of all hospital infections but are responsible for at least 30 percent of the 99000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths according to the best estimates available. Hospitals that are following simple hygienic steps have virtually eliminated those infections but many others are failing to act. Research shows that putting the catheter in the subclavian vein is best for infection control.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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