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Many catheter infections could be prevented

Federal health officials recently released a report covering state-by-state statistics regarding central line catheter infections. The biggest revelation was that there is a wide discrepancy between the risks of contracting a blood infection, due to unsanitary medical devices, from one state to another. Health professionals say that many of the patients that suffer from fatal infections were due to hospital error. The hope is that this data will be used to improve patient care in North Carolina and nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control has gathered data over the last three months about central line infection rates. Infections can occur when catheter tubes inserted into major veins are unclean or improperly put into blood vessels. According to the research, one of every six hospitals across the country has a high rate of largely preventable bloodstream infections. North Carolina was ranked 27th in the nation for central line safety, so there is definitely room for improvement.

The most alarming finding in this study is that some states have few issues with central line administration and potentially fatal infections are much more common in other states. Up to 25 percent of patients die when they contract a central line infection. Yet many of these infections could be prevented if hospitals would consistently abide by safety guidelines.

As a result of the widespread and preventable infections, federal health officials are preparing to issue stiff fines to hospitals that have high rates of catheter infections.

It's unsettling that this type of bloodstream infection is potentially fatal, but often preventable. Health professionals have a responsibility to provide high-quality health care to patients. Ensuring that catheters are sanitized and inserted properly should go without saying, but in this case federal action is necessary. Failing to adhere to cautionary measures to prevent lethal infections is irresponsible and patients deserve better.

Source: NPR, "Feds Find Wide Variation In Serious Infections Linked To Catheters," Jordan Rau, Feb. 9, 2012

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