You may already know that a central line is an important medical tool. Health care professionals insert them into patients through a major vein in the neck, chest or groin. These lines allow doctors to administer fluids and precise doses of medication. Oppositely, they may allow pathogens to get directly into the bloodstream, causing a potentially serious widespread infection. Patients may develop chills and a fever, and the catheter site might become red and irritated [source: California Dept. of Public Health].
While these infections represent one of the most common hospital-acquired infections, with over 30,000 cases in 2011, the CDC reports a 44 percent decrease in such infections between 2008 and 2012 [sources: CDC, CDC]. That's excellent progress, accomplished mainly by ensuring hospital workers wash their hands before installing or handling a central line; keeping the line itself antiseptic through handy sterile items like gloves, gowns, caps, masks and sterile drapes; and leaving the line in only as long as necessary.