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Catheter-Associated Bloodstream Infections, FAQ

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It is the goal of Children's Hospital of The King’s Daughters Health System (CHKDHS) to provide the best possible care for your child. Please read this information to learn about how you can help us prevent infections.

What is a catheter-associated bloodstream infection?

A “central line” or “central catheter” is a tube that is placed into a patient’s large vein, usually in the neck, chest, arm, or groin. The tube is advanced to end near the heart, which what makes it “central.” For newborns, the cord in the belly button may be used for placement of a central line. If your child has a central catheter he is at greater risk for infection. Numerous other things also increase the risk for infection.

The catheter is often used to give fluids or medications or draw blood. It may be left in place for several weeks or longer. A bloodstream infection can occur when bacteria or other germs travel down a “central line” and enter the blood. If your child develops a catheter-associated bloodstream infection he may become very ill with fevers and chills or the skin around the catheter may become sore and red.

Can a catheter-associated bloodstream infection be treated?

Yes, a catheter-associated infection is serious, but often can be successfully treated with antibiotics. The catheter might need to be removed if your child develops an infection.

What does CHKDHS do to prevent catheter-associated bloodstream infections?

To prevent catheter-associated bloodstream infections doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers will:

  • Choose a vein where the catheter can be safely inserted and where the risk of infection is low.
  • Clean their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub before putting in the catheter.
  • Wear a mask, cap, sterile gown, and sterile gloves when putting in the catheter to keep it sterile. Your child will be covered with a sterile sheet.
  • Clean your child’s skin with a special cleanser (chlorhexidine gluconate-CHG) that kills germs before putting in the catheter.
  • Clean their hands, wear gloves, and scrub around the cap on the end of the catheter with an antiseptic solution before using the catheter to draw blood or give medications.
  • Clean their hands and wear gloves when changing the bandage that covers the area where the catheter enters your child’s skin.  
  • Provide a daily bath with CHG bath cloths to reduce the number of harmful germs on your child's skin. 
    • CHG wipes are not used on your child's eyes, ears, nose, mouth, genitals, head or scalp.
    • CHG bath cloths are not used for NICU patients with central lines or for any pediatric patients who are allergic to CHG.
  • Decide every day if your child still needs to have the catheter. The catheter will be removed as soon as it is no longer needed.

What can I do to help prevent my child from getting a catheter-associated bloodstream infection?

  • Ask your doctors and nurses to explain why your child needs the catheter and how long it will be needed.
  • Ask your doctors and nurses if they will be using all the prevention methods discussed above.
  • Make sure that all doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers caring for your child clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after caring for your child. If you do not see your child's healthcare provider clean their hands, please ask them to do so.
  • If your child’s bandage comes off or becomes wet or dirty, tell the nurse or doctor immediately.
  • Inform the nurse or doctor if the area around your child’s catheter is red or if he tells you it is sore.
  • Do not let family and friends who visit touch the catheter or tubing.
  • Make sure that you and all your child’s visitors clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after each visit.

What do I need to do when my child goes home with a central catheter?

Your child may be sent home from the hospital with the catheter in order to continue his treatment. If your child goes home with a catheter, his doctors and nurses will explain everything you need to know about taking care of the catheter.

  • Make sure you understand how to care for the catheter before leaving the hospital. For example, ask for instructions on showering or bathing with the catheter and how to change the catheter dressing.
  • Make sure your know who to contact about the care of your child’s catheter if you have questions or problems after you get home.
  • Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before handling your child’s catheter.
  • Watch for the signs and symptoms of catheter-associated bloodstream infection, such as soreness or redness at the catheter site or fever, and call your child’s doctor immediately if any problems occur.

If you have additional questions, please ask your child’s doctor or nurse.


Disclaimer: This material was adapted from information co-sponsored by: SHEA (The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America); IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America; APIC (Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) CDC (Center for Disease Control) and The Joint Commission, 2009. This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 01/2014

(757) 668-7000