In order to administer medicine or fluids or to collect blood for medical tests, a doctor in Illinois may place a central venous catheter in one of the large veins in a patient’s neck, chest or groin. This catheter, or tube, is also known as a central line. An intravenous catheter, or IV, is similar, but delivers the medicine or fluids into a smaller vein near the surface of the skin. IVs are typically only used for a short period of time. A central line can be in place for weeks or months, which raises the likelihood of a bloodstream infection.
When germs such as bacteria or viruses come in contact with the catheter, they can enter the body and cause a central line-associated bloodstream infection, or CLABSI. This can happen if healthcare providers do not follow strict protocol while inserting or checking a line, or changing the dressing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between 15 and 17 percent of the patients who receive them in U.S. hospitals each year are affected.
Strict hygiene practices prevent infections
The steps healthcare workers are required to take to prevent CLABSI include hand hygiene, applying a skin antiseptic on the patient, and waiting until the skin prep agent is dry before inserting the line. There are also maximal sterile barrier precautions, including a cap, gown, mask, and drape. As soon as the patient no longer needs the line, it should be removed promptly. A bloodstream infection that occurs because of a failure to follow all of these procedures is considered hospital negligence.
Sometimes contamination occurs because of patient or visitor hygiene practices. All visitors should wash their hands before and after the visit, and no one should touch the catheter or tubing, including the patient. In the case of a serious long-term illness, such as cancer, the tube may be left in after the patient is discharged from the hospital, and personal hygiene issues at home can create an issue.
Bloodstream infections cause significant risks
When the infection is present on the day the patient is admitted to the hospital or on the day after, the fault is not attributed to that healthcare facility. However, if signs are present on the third day of the hospital stay, the facility may be guilty of malpractice. Symptoms of CLABSI include a fever, as well as redness or soreness around the insertion point, and it typically causes a prolonged hospital stay and higher medical expenses.
CLABSI is particularly dangerous because the larger veins feed into the heart, causing the potential for a fatality. Victims of a central line infection should contact an Illinois attorney to receive full compensation for medical costs.