Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections

What is a central line or central venous catheter?

Central lines, also called central venous catheters, are tubes placed into a patient's large vein, often in the neck, chest, arm or groin. They are called "central" because they end near the patient's heart. The catheters may be used to take blood samples or to give medications and fluids. Central lines may be left in place for several weeks, and are often needed for today's complex patient care.

What is a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)?

A CLABSI can occur when germs multiply on the central line material and enter the bloodstream. A CLABSI can cause fevers and chills, or the skin around the catheter may become red and tender. A CLABSI can be dangerous to patients, which is why UCSF provides specialized care for patients with central lines.

How does UCSF Medical Center measure CLABSI?

UCSF Medical Center measures these infection rates according to the methods of the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate is expressed as the number of infections per 1,000 central line days (the total number of days patients have a central line in place). For example, if two patients had a central line for five days each, that is a total of 10 central line days.

What is the CLABSI rate at UCSF Medical Center?

Lower is better when comparing these infection rates. The medical center achieved a rate of 1.60 CLABSI/1,000 central line days in fiscal year 2016.

Our goal is to have zero central-line associated bloodstream infections in our hospital.

central line bloodstream infection chart

What does UCSF Medical Center do to prevent CLABSIs?

To prevent infection, we treat the insertion of a central line as a surgical procedure. This means doctors and nurses thoroughly wash their hands before the procedure and put on surgical gowns and caps, masks and sterile gloves. The patient is covered from head to toe with sterile drapes. These measures result in lower infection rates.

When cleaning or removing a central line, we follow specific, sterile procedures that are closely monitored.

In addition, a committee of Infection Control employees, nurses and doctors meets regularly to review infection rates and examine our procedures. If a CLABSI occurs, this committee evaluates what, if anything, went wrong.

What can patients do?

Talk to your health care team. Ask if you can receive a chlorhexidine bath. Find out when the central line can be safely removed. If you don't see a doctor, nurse or technician clean his or her hands, ask him or her to do so before touching the central line.


Related Information

Contact Us

If you have any questions or comments about our performance, contact Patient Safety and Quality:

  • UCSF Medical Center
    (415) 353-4989
  • UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco
    (415) 502-9859

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