How UTSW Ensures Patient Safety – Preventing Infections From Large Central Catheters

Patients who need to take medications intravenously over a long period of time may require the use of a central line, which is a large catheter placed in the upper arm, chest, or neck. Blood stream infections can develop as a complication of extended catheter use, but the risk can be reduced with proper care.

Why Is This Important?

By using a central line, medical staff can dispense medications efficiently and effectively, and patients do not have to undergo frequent intravenous catheter changes. One complication of central line use is contracting an infection from the catheter. Some of these infections can be prevented by using proper insertion and line-maintenance techniques.

UT Southwestern has dramatically decreased the incidence of central line infections over the past few years, as illustrated in the figure below.   

Central Line-Associated Blood Stream Infections (CLABSI)

What Does This Graph Show?

The graph illustrates the rate of central line infections occurring in UTSW hospitals over the past several quarters compared to the U.S. average for hospitals. We believe these infection rates are too high. UT Southwestern has started a quality improvement program to reduce the number of these infections.