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J Clin Microbiol. 2010 Dec;48(12):4501-3. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00910-10. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

Innovation for reducing blood culture contamination: initial specimen diversion technique.

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  • 1Clinical Laboratory, Northwest Hospital and Medical Center/University of Washington Medicine, Department of Pathology, 1550 N. 115th Street, Seattle, WA 98133, USA.


We hypothesized that diversion of the first milliliter of venipuncture blood-the initial specimen diversion technique (ISDT)-would eliminate incompletely sterilized fragments of skin from the culture specimen and significantly reduce our blood culture contamination rate (R). We studied our hypothesis prospectively beginning with our control culture (C) definition: one venipuncture with two sequentially obtained specimens, 10 ml each, the first specimen (M1) for aerobic and the second (M2) for anaerobic media. The test ISDT culture (D) was identical, with the exception that each was preceded by diverting a 1-ml sample (DS) from the same venipuncture. During the first of two sequential 9-month periods, we captured D versus C data (n=3,733), where DMXR and CMXR are R for D and C specimens. Our hypothesis predicted DS would divert soiled skin fragments from DM1, and therefore, CM1R would be significantly greater than DM1R. This was confirmed by CM1R (30/1,061 [2.8%]) less DM1R (37/2,672 [1.4%]; P=0.005), which equals 1.4%. For the second 9-month follow-up period, data were compiled for all cultures (n=4,143), where ADMXR is R for all (A) diversion specimens, enabling comparison to test ISDT. Our hypothesis predicted no significant differences for test ISDT versus all ISDT. This was confirmed by DM1R (37/2,672 [1.4%]) versus ADM1R (42/4,143 [1.0%]; P=0.17) and DM2R (21/2,672 [0.80%]) versus ADM2R (39/4,143 [0.94%]; P=0.50). We conclude that our hypothesis is valid: venipuncture needles soil blood culture specimens with unsterilized skin fragments and increase R, and ISDT significantly reduces R from venipuncture-obtained blood culture specimens.

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