Tag Archives: central line infection

CDC Finds that 1 in 25 Patients Acquire an Infection While in the Hospital

By Kim Smiley

A recent headline from the New York Times reads “Infections at Hospitals Are Falling, CDC Says”.  That sounds like fantastic news right?  Well, what about this one from the same day from the Washington Post: “One in 25 patients has an infection acquired during hospital stay, CDC says.”  One in 25 doesn’t seem like great odds to me.  The two headlines give very different impressions of the problem, so which one is right?

The truth is that both statements are accurate, but neither tells the complete story.  To really understand the situation, you need to read a lot more than just the headlines. This is a good analogy for what happens in meetings every day.  Something goes wrong and everybody thinks they know what THE problem is or what is THE root cause.  Many times when people argue they aren’t really in disagreement, they are just focused on different parts of the same puzzle.

Building a Cause Map, a visual format for performing a root cause analysis, can help reduce miscommunication.  The first step in the Cause Mapping process is to fill in an Outline.  The top of the Outline lists the basic background information.  At the bottom of the Outline, there is space for listing the specific impacts to the overall goals.  People may argue about what THE problem is, but it’s hard to argue when specifically listing how the problem impacts goals.  For example, most people would agree that increased cost of healthcare is an impact to the overall economic goal of a hospital.  It may sound counterintuitive, but adding detail helps clarify the situation, when defining the problem and when actually determining what went wrong.

In the case of those headlines listed above, both refer to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that found that about 1 in 25 patients in US hospitals in 2011 acquired at least one infection based on data from 11,282 patients treated at 183 hospitals in 10 states.   (The total number of patients who acquired at least one infection is over 700,000.) The study estimated that around 75,000 of these patients died, but didn’t provide information on whether the deaths directly resulted from the infections.  The study also didn’t include nursing homes, emergency departments, rehabilitation hospitals and outpatient treatment centers.  Previous estimates put the number of infections each year at 2.1 million in the 1970s and 1.7 million from 1990 through 2002. The rate of infections also varies widely from hospital to hospital.  There is uncertainty in the data available, but the trend seems to be going in the right direction, even though the problem of hospital-acquired infections remains significant.  Before working to reduce the risk of a problem, it’s important to lay out all the facts and understand what exactly the problem is.  That generally requires more than a simple statement, which is why the Cause Mapping uses a formal Outline to define a problem.

After the Outline is completed, the next step is to analyze the issue by building a Cause Map by asking “why” questions starting with one of the impacted goals.  Hospital acquired infections are an impact to the patient safety goal so we could begin by asking “Why are patients getting infections in hospitals?”  This occurs because they are exposed to a pathogen.  Why?  There are pathogens at the hospital because many sick people are there for treatment.  Inadequate cleanliness also plays a role.  Additionally, the pathogen is able to infect the patient.  You would continue asking questions to determine why patients are being infected until you reach the desired level of detail.  Generally, the bigger the problem, the greater level of detail is needed.

To view a completed Outline and a Cause Map of this issue, click on “Download PDF” above.

Preventing Central Line Infections

By ThinkReliability Staff

Central line infections, also called central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLASBI), can occur when a large tube is placed in a large vein in the neck, chest, groin or arms to give fluids, blood, or medications or to do certain medical tests quickly.  While they allow exceptional access to internal systems, Central Venous Catheters (CVC) also can cause thousands of patient deaths a year and add billions of dollars in healthcare costs.  However, these infections are entirely preventable.

In this health care scenario, patient safety is the foremost concern.  So the most basic Cause Map would show that the Patient Safety Goal is impacted by preventable bloodstream infections, and that those infections come from pathogens introduced by a central line.  The next step is to elaborate on how pathogens enter the bloodstream, and then determine what appropriate solutions might be.

Preventable bloodstream infections happen because pathogens access the bloodstream and also because the infections aren’t treated early on.  This suggests that by treating infections early on, and vigilantly watching for signs of infection, more serious infections can be prevented.

Pathogens can access the bloodstream because a central line provides a direct conduit to the bloodstream and because pathogens are present.  Again, while these are obvious statements, they allow the opportunity to develop potential solutions.  First, the CDC recommends not using a CVC unless absolutely necessary.  Additionally, CVCs shouldn’t be placed in the femoral artery in adults because it is associated with greater infection rates and secondary problems such as deep venous thrombosis.

Assuming a central line is necessary; more analysis leads to further solutions that might reduce the presence of pathogens.  Pathogens generally come from two sources – the line was improperly put in or somehow the line became contaminated during use.  Using antimicrobial materials is one potential way of minimizing contamination.

Looking closer at the uppermost branch , how the line was put in, leads to some insightful solutions.  One simple solution recommended by the CDC is to use a checklist and follow their guidance.  Checklists are a simple but highly effective way of reducing errors in repetitive processes.  There are two major causes in this branch, dirty hands/gloves from the nurse or doctor putting the CVC in the patient and the patient having dirty skin at the site of the CVC.  CDC guidance also recommends using maximal barriers such as masks and gloves and washing your hands.  Cleaning the patient’s skin with a chlorhexidine-based solution is another important step that can reduce these infections.

With so many possible solutions, it is important to identify where changes need to occur in your own processes.  This is fairly simplistic Cause Map and there are many other solutions suggested by the CDC and other government health agencies.  For more information on steps to reduce CLASBIs, see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guideline.

Reduced central line infections? Check.

By ThinkReliability Staff

Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit has achieved remarkable reductions in bloodstream infections associated with central lines. They’ve reduced the rate of infections significantly by implementing a simple procedure and checklist. We will perform a root cause analysis that shows how these gains were achieved.

First, the hospital needed to determine what was at stake. Over 18 months, it was estimated that more than 1500 patients would die from infections. This is an impact to the patient safety goal. There was non-compliance with procedures, which is an impact to the compliance and organization goals. Infections result in a longer intensive care unit (ICU) stay, which is an impact to the patient services goal. Lastly, the hospital estimated that, over the 18 months, it would spend $175 million in additional costs from these infections.

Next, the stakeholders in the central line insertion process (doctors and nurses) were asked to help determine why these infections were occurring. Bloodstream infections resulting from intravenous catheters result when a catheter is inserted (for vascular access) with bacteria on it. Generally, the bacteria is on the catheter from a missed step in the catheter process which prevents contamination. The steps that were not always being followed were: doctors washing their hands and donning protective wear, patients not being washed with antiseptic or fully draped, and insertion sites not being covered with sterile dressing after the catheter is inserted.

As a solution, a checklist was created that outlined the six steps of catheter insertion. (The outline, Cause Map, process map, solutions, and checklist are shown on the downloadable PDF. To view it, click on “Download PDF” above.) The six steps included the cleanliness steps discussed above. Additionally, the medical professionals noticed that sometimes the procedures weren’t being followed because the necessary equipment was not available in the ICUs. Senior executives from the hospital were assigned to each unit, and were able to properly stock the ICUs. Additionally, the executives got Arrow International to manufacture central line kits that contained the necessary antiseptic and patient drapes.

The progress at Sinai-Grace has been remarkable, by joining all the necessary parties to an effective root cause analysis. Click on “Download PDF” to see what they did. (Read more in The New Yorker Annals of Medicine.)