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Am J Med. 1988 Oct;85(4):495-8.

Prospective study of infections in indwelling central venous catheters using quantitative blood cultures.

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Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021.



Surgically implanted central venous catheters are widely used in cancer patients in whom there is a need for prolonged venous access for chemotherapy, parenteral nutrition, antibiotics, and blood sampling. This study evaluated catheter infectious complications, including catheter-related sepsis, exit site infection, and tunnel infection. Specifically, an evaluation of the incidence, type, and response to treatment of indwelling catheter infections was performed, and conditions under which the catheter should be removed were delineated.


During the year of this study, 488 central venous catheters were implanted. Records were maintained on demographic variables, date of catheter implantation, surgeon, white blood cell count, absolute neutrophil count, and underlying diagnosis. Blood for both aerobic and anaerobic culture was collected from each patient. For patients in whom infection developed, clinical features, white blood cell count, absolute neutrophil count, and microbiologic data were noted, as were the clinical course and response to treatment.


A total of 142 episodes of infectious complications were documented. There were 88 episodes of catheter-related sepsis, and 33 of 54 evaluable episodes (61 percent) were successfully treated with antibiotics. There were 34 episodes of exit site infection, and 20 of the 29 evaluable episodes (69 percent) were successfully treated with antibiotics and local care. Of the 20 tunnel infections, only five (25 percent) were successfully treated with antibiotics, and the other 15 required catheter removal for cure. Twelve of the 15 cases requiring catheter removal were caused by Pseudomonas species.


On the basis of these results, compulsory removal of the catheter is not required in cases of catheter-related sepsis. Similarly, exit site infections can often be cured by means of antibiotics and local care. However, catheter removal is required to achieve cure in most tunnel infections, particularly if Pseudomonas species are cultured from the exit sites of patients with tunnel infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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