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Hospital Acquired Infections Decline

Over the past two years hospitals nationally have reduced the number of central line-associated bloodstream infections by 40 percent down to 1.13 infections per 1,000 central line days, according to the Agency or Health Care Research and Quality and the American Hospital Association.

According to Dr. Carlene Muto, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at UPMC, central lines are catheters normally placed in large veins in the neck or groin to deliver drugs and nutrients in an effective manner. She said the rate of infections per 1,000 central line days is determined by the number of people on central lines and the time spent with them inserted.

Muto said infections occur when blood grows bacteria and can be dangerous to patients. 

“Reported mortality can be as high as 30-40 percent,” said Muto. “And so depending on the organism and perhaps the host, you may be more likely to die of this kind of infection.”

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania reports that hospitals in the commonwealth decreased their infection rates. According to Roger Baumgarten, spokesman for the Association, the rate decreased from .93 to .81 infections per 1,000 central line days.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve done because over that same time period we’ve started out with the lower infection rate than the national average and the subsequent infection rate was even lower,” said Baumgarten. “We’re very much ahead of where the rest of the country is on bloodstream infection control.”

Dr. Muto said UPMC’s efforts to lower infection rates began in 2000. She said hospitals in southwestern Pennsylvania got together and pledged to find ways to better prevent infections.

She said they found their numbers were on par with national rates, but they weren’t inserting lines as effectively as possible.

“So you can make sure that you use what we call maximal barrier precautions,” said Muto, “a large gown and a sterile drape and all different things to ensure that the bacteria doesn’t get to the site when you’re inserting the line.”

Muto said they began issuing their technicians with bags that included everything needed to insert a sterile central line and saw their infection rate move from 4.5 in 2001 to under one infections per 1,000 central line days in 2005.

She said UPMC’s infection rates range around the .7 mark currently.