Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI)

A “central line” or “central catheter” is a tube that’s placed into a patient’s large vein to draw blood, or give fluids or medications. A bloodstream infection can occur when germs travel down a “central line” and enter the blood. If you develop a catheter-associated bloodstream infection, you may have a fever and chills, or the skin around the catheter may become sore and red.

Who is involved?

Our Quality and Patient Safety team is continuously thinking of ways to improve how we provide the highest quality care to patients in a safe environment. To minimize harm to our patients from invasive devices, we have a dedicated team of infection preventionists and hospital epidemiologists who work with clinicians along with quality and patient staff.  

How are we monitoring the care we provide?

At Tufts Medical Center, we are committed to reducing CLABSI infections. Our dedicated team works to:

  • Monitor CLABSI through a computer program that assists in alerting us to cases to investigate as well as rounds with the microbiology staff.
  • Review every central line or urinary catheter infection with the care area and clinicians. 
  • Run task forces for CLABSI that review data, cases, and new products and practices.
  • Establish policies that explain how to minimize the use of central lines and urinary catheters.
  • Produce dashboards that show updates on infection rates, how many lines and catheters we use, and how close we are to our goal of zero infections.  
  • Develop an annual infection risk assessment plan that takes into account changes in treatments, patient population and how well we did the previous year in fighting these infections.
  • Collaborate with pediatric hospitals, Solutions for Patient Safety, which allows us to share data as well as best practices.
  • Observe patients after they have been discharged. 

What measures are we taking to improve?

Based on your individual risk, we may implement a number of strategies to help prevent infections. These include:

  • Clean our hands with soap and water or an 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.
  • Clean the patient’s skin with an antiseptic cleanser before putting in the catheter.

How are these strategies being evaluated?

Tufts MC’s catheter-associated bloodstream infections are reported to PatientCareLink, a healthcare quality and transparency collaborative comprised of Massachusetts hospitals, their nursing leaders, and home healthcare agencies throughout the commonwealth. The data collected at Tufts MC is compared against other Massachusetts hospitals and the group average is taken.

How can patients and families contribute?

In order to prevent a catheter-associated bloodstream infection, ask your doctors and nurses to explain why you need the catheter and how long you will have it. Before you leave the hospital:

  • Make sure you understand how to care for the catheter.
  • Make sure you know who to contact 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 catheter.
  • Watch for signs and symptoms of catheter-associated bloodstream infection, and call your healthcare provider immediately if any occur.