Frequently asked questions about central line bloodstream infections (CLI)

What can patients do to help reduce their chances of infection in general?

Patients should always follow instructions given to them by your health care team.  Frequent hand cleaning is another way to prevent the spread of infection. Hand hygiene involves everyone in the hospital, including patients.

How is a central line associated bloodstream infection (CLI) treated?

Treatment depends on the type of catheter, the severity of the infection and the patient’s overall health. Generally, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection and the central line may need to be removed. In some cases, the line is flushed with high doses of antibiotics to kill the germs causing the infection so that the line does not have to be removed. 

What can patients do to prevent a central line associated bloodstream infection (CLI)?
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Find out why you need the line and where it will be placed.
  • Learn what steps the hospital is taking to reduce the danger of infection.
  • Wash your own hands often. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60 per cent alcohol.
  • Try not to touch your line or dressing. 
What are health care providers doing to prevent a central line associated bloodstream infection (CLI)?
  • All health care providers should practice proper hand cleaning techniques.
  • Everyone who touches the central line must wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wear sterile clothing – a mask, gloves and hair covering – when putting in the line.
  • The patient should be covered with a sterile drape with a small hole where the line goes in.
  • The patient’s skin should be cleaned with “chlorhexidine” (a type of soap) when the line is put in.
  • Choose the most appropriate vein to insert the line.
  • Check the line every day for infection.
  • Replace the line as needed and not on a schedule.
  • Remove the line as soon as it is no longer needed.  

Health care providers who insert a central line in the vein of a patient fill out a central line insertion check list and procedure note which dates, tracks and documents the procedure.

What are some of the risk factors for a central line associated bloodstream infection (CLI)?

Anyone who has a central line can get an infection. The risk is higher if you:

  • Admitted to the ICU
  • Have a serious underlying illness or debilitation
  • Receiving bone marrow or chemotherapy
  • Have the line in for an extended time 
What are some of the symptoms of a central line associated bloodstream infection (CLI)?
  • Redness, pain or swelling at or near the catheter site
  • Pain or tenderness along the path of the catheter
  • Drainage from the skin around the catheter
  • Sudden fever or chills 
What is a central line associated bloodstream infection (CLI)?

Central line infections occur when a central venous catheter (or “line”) is placed in the patient’s vein and the line gets infected. Patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) often require a central line since they are seriously ill and require a lot of medication for a long period of time. When a patient requires long-term access to medication or fluids through an intravenous (IV), a central line is put in place. A central line infection can occur when bacteria and/or fungi enters the blood stream. The bacteria can come from a variety of places (skin wounds, environment etc.), though it most often comes from the patient’s own skin.