What is a Catheter-related blood stream infection?


IV (intravascular) catheters have become very important in the care of patients, particularly in critical care units (ICUs). Although such catheters provide the necessary IV access, their use may put patients at risk for infections. Healthcare institutions utilize millions of IV catheters each year. The number of infections, Catheter-Related Bloodstream Infection (CRBSI) varies considerably by the type of catheter, the amount of use (catheter manipulation), and the reason why the patient is hospitalized (patient-related factors).


The rate of infection in ICU is often higher than in the remainder of the hospital because patients in ICUs are often exposed to different and more bacteria. Central venous catheters (catheters that lie in the blood vessels near the heart) are used in critical care units frequently and are manipulated multiple times per day for the administration of fluids, drugs, blood products, to obtain blood pressure measurements and samples for laboratory blood work.

The best treatment for a catheter-related bloodstream infection is prevention.


How can I help reduce my risk of acquiring a catheter-related blood stream infection?


Healthcare providers are taking measures to reduce catheter-related bloodstream infection; however, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement recommends these steps to patients and family members:

  • If you do not see hospital staff wash their hands before and after working with the patient, do not be afraid to remind them to wash their hands.
  • Ask a lot of questions before you agree to receiving a catheter such as:
    • Which vein will be used?
    • How will the skin be cleaned prior to insertion?
    • What steps can be taken to lower infection?
  • Make sure the catheter is checked every day for signs of infection.


For a more in depth information on CRBSI and how to prevent it review the following websites:

Related Links:


The Safe Care Campaign

The Safe Care Campaign's goal is to investigate a crucial, culture-change within the American healthcare environment in regard to comprehensive infection prevention and hand hygiene.


Skin is the Source


The skin is the source website is a website dedicated to reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by educating patients that skin is often the source of HAIs.


Institute of Healthcare Improvement


Click here for the Institute of Healthcare Improvement's document

"What You Need to Know about Central Line Infections (CLI): A Fact Sheet for Patients and their Family Members"



Other Resources: