Background: Uncuffed, nontunneled hemodialysis catheters remain the preferred means to gain immediate access to the circulation for hemodialysis. Bacteremia is the primary complication that limits their use. The risk of bacteremia by site of insertion and duration of use has not been well studied.
Methods: Two hundred eighteen consecutive patients who required a temporary hemodialysis catheter were prospectively followed.
Results: Catheters were placed at 318 new insertion sites and remained in use for a total of 6235 days. The incidence of bacteremia was 5.4% after three weeks of placement in internal jugular vein and 10.7% after one week in femoral vein [relative risk for bacteremia 3.1 (95% CI, 1.8 to 5.2)]. The incidence of bacteremia was 1.9% one day after the onset of an exit site infection but increased to 13.4% by the second day if the catheter was not removed. Guidewire exchange for malfunction and patient factors did not significantly affect the risk of bacteremia.
Conclusions: Internal jugular catheters may be left in place for up to three weeks without a high risk of bacteremia, but femoral catheters in bed-bound patients should be removed after one week. Catheter exchanges over a guidewire for catheter malfunction do not increase bacteremia rates. Temporary catheters should be removed immediately if an exit site infection occurs.