Central lines are very useful in health care settings. If you've ever been to an emergency room for a serious condition, or admitted into a hospital, you've probably had one placed. These tubes are inserted into a large vein -- usually in either the arm, neck or chest -- and they have a variety of potential jobs. A central line can serve as a pathway into the body for fluids, medications or blood. It can even allow a doctor to quickly perform certain tests.
Despite the practicality and necessity of central lines, they also present a danger: bloodstream infection. A central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) can happen when germs gain access to a person's bloodstream by way of a central line tube.
To help prevent CLABSI, health care providers need to follow several steps:
- Thoroughly wash and sanitize hands before and after inserting the central line.
- Cleanse the central line entry site with antiseptic and allow it to dry before inserting the tube.
- Wear sterile gloves, gown, cap, mask and drape when inserting a central line.
- Make sure the central line is removed as soon as it's no longer required.
If the physicians and nurses taking care of you follow these steps, they will greatly reduce your odds of contracting CLABSI. You can also take your own precautions by avoiding getting the insertion site wet or dirty, and by not allowing anyone with you to touch your central line or the site where it's inserted.
The estimated yearly deaths due to bloodstream infections are around 30,000 [source: Klevens, et al]. The only category of infectious diseases that wreaks more havoc in hospitals is the one on the next page.