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2011 Guidelines for the Prevention of Intravascular Catheter-Related Infections

Download the complete 2011 Guidelines for the Prevention of Intravascular Catheter-Related Infections [PDF - 1.05 MB]

Notice to Readers:

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) integrated current advances in guideline production and implementation into its development process. The new methodology enables CDC and HICPAC to improve the validity and usability of its guidelines while also addressing emerging challenges in guideline development in the area of infection prevention and control. However, the Guidelines for the Prevention of Intravascular Catheter-Related Infections were initiated before the methodology was revised. Therefore, this guideline reflects the development methods that were used for guidelines produced prior to 2009. Future revisions will be performed using the updated methodology.

These guidelines have been developed for healthcare personnel who insert intravascular catheters and for persons responsible for surveillance and control of infections in hospital, outpatient, and home healthcare settings. This report was prepared by a working group comprising members from professional organizations representing the disciplines of critical care medicine, infectious diseases, healthcare infection control, surgery, anesthesiology, interventional radiology, pulmonary medicine, pediatric medicine, and nursing. The working group was led by the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), in collaboration with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), Surgical Infection Society (SIS), American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), American Thoracic Society (ATS), American Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists (ASCCA), Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), Infusion Nurses Society (INS), Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is intended to replace the Guideline for Prevention of Intravascular Catheter-Related Infections published in 2002. These guidelines are intended to provide evidence-based recommendations for preventing intravascular catheter-related infections. Major areas of emphasis include 1) educating and training healthcare personnel who insert and maintain catheters; 2) using maximal sterile barrier precautions during central venous catheter insertion; 3) using a >0.5% chlorhexidine skin preparation with alcohol for antisepsis; 4) avoiding routine replacement of central venous catheters as a strategy to prevent infection; and 5) using antiseptic/antibiotic impregnated short-term central venous catheters and chlorhexidine impregnated sponge dressings if the rate of infection is not decreasing despite adherence to other strategies (i.e., education and training, maximal sterile barrier precautions, and >0.5% chlorhexidine preparations with alcohol for skin antisepsis). These guidelines also emphasize performance improvement by implementing bundled strategies, and documenting and reporting rates of compliance with all components of the bundle as benchmarks for quality assurance and performance improvement.

As in previous guidelines issued by CDC and HICPAC, each recommendation is categorized on the basis of existing scientific data, theoretical rationale, applicability, and economic impact. The system for categorizing recommendations in this guideline is as follows:

  • Category IA. Strongly recommended for implementation and strongly supported by well-designed experimental, clinical, or epidemiologic studies.
  • Category IB. Strongly recommended for implementation and supported by some experimental, clinical, or epidemiologic studies and a strong theoretical rationale; or an accepted practice (e.g., aseptic technique) supported by limited evidence.
  • Category IC. Required by state or federal regulations, rules, or standards.
  • Category II. Suggested for implementation and supported by suggestive clinical or epidemiologic studies or a theoretical rationale. Unresolved issue. Represents an unresolved issue for which evidence is insufficient or no consensus regarding efficacy exists.


In the United States, 15 million central vascular catheter (CVC) days (i.e., the total number of days of exposure to CVCs among all patients in the selected population during the selected time period) occur in intensive care units (ICUs) each year [1]. Studies have variously addressed catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSI). These infections independently increase hospital costs and length of stay [2-5], but have not generally been shown to independently increase mortality. While 80,000 CRBSIs occur in ICUs each year [1], a total of 250,000 cases of BSIs have been estimated to occur annually, if entire hospitals are assessed [6]. By several analyses, the cost of these infections is substantial, both in terms of morbidity and financial resources expended. To improve patient outcome and to reduce healthcare costs, there is considerable interest by healthcare providers, insurers, regulators, and patient advocates in reducing the incidence of these infections. This effort should be multidisciplinary, involving healthcare professionals who order the insertion and removal of CVCs, those personnel who insert and maintain intravascular catheters, infection control personnel, healthcare managers including the chief executive officer (CEO) and those who allocate resources, and patients who are capable of assisting in the care of their catheters.

The goal of an effective prevention program should be the elimination of CRBSI from all patient-care areas. Although this is challenging, programs have demonstrated success, but sustained elimination requires continued effort. The goal of the measures discussed in this document is to reduce the rate to as low as feasible given the specific patient population being served, the universal presence of microorganisms in the human environment, and the limitations of current strategies and technologies.

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