Background: Tunneled dialysis catheters are often used for temporary vascular access in hemodialysis patients, but are complicated by frequent systemic infections. The treatment of bacteremia associated with infected tunneled catheters requires both antibiotic therapy and catheter replacement. We compared the outcomes of two treatment strategies for catheter-associated bacteremia: exchange of the existing catheter with a new one over a guidewire versus catheter removal with delayed replacement.
Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the outcomes of all cases of tunneled dialysis catheter-associated bacteremia during a two-year period. The infection-free survival time of the subsequent catheter was evaluated in two groups of patients: group A (31 catheters), exchange of the existing infected catheter with a new catheter over a guidewire, and group B (38 catheters), removal of the infected catheter followed by delayed catheter replacement 3 to 10 days later. Patients in both groups received three weeks of systemic antibiotic therapy. Cox proportional hazard models were used to evaluate the factors predictive of infection-free survival time of the replacement catheter.
Results: On univariate proportional hazard regression analysis, the infection-free survival time of the replacement catheter was similar for groups A and B (P = 0.72), whereas the hazard of infection was significantly greater for patients with hypoalbuminemia (serum albumin < 3.5 g/dL), as compared with patients with a normal serum albumin (hazard ratio 2.81, 95% CI, 1. 21, 6.53, P = 0.016). The infection-free survival time was not affected by patient age, sex, diabetic status, or type of organism (gram-positive coccus vs. gram-negative rod).
Conclusions: The infection-free survival time associated with the subsequent catheter is similar for the two treatment strategies. However, exchanging the catheter for a new one over a guidewire minimizes the number of separate procedures required by the patient. Hypoalbuminemia is the major risk factor for recurrent bacteremia in the replacement catheter.