We studied a cohort of 2201 patients hospitalized in 15 French intensive care units (ICUs) for > or = 48 h during a 4-mo period to assess the incidence and outcomes of primary and definite catheter-related bloodstream (CRB) or secondary nosocomial bloodstream infection (NBSI). Variables associated with ICU death and duration of stay were determined by logistic regression, and attributable mortality and length of stay (LOS) from a nested matched case-control (96 pairs) study, stratified on the source of bacteremia. Bacteremia occurred in 5% (95% CI 4.1-6%) of patients with > or = 48 h ICU stay. Primary, CRB, and secondary NBSI accounted for 29%, 26%, and 45% of the 111 episodes, respectively. NBSI was associated with a markedly increased risk of death (OR = 4.6; 95% CI 2.9-7.1) and an attributable mortality of 35% (95% CI, 28%-47%). In the case-control study, the excess mortality was 20% (p = 0.03) in patients with primary bacteremia and CRB, and 55% (p < 0.001) for secondary bacteremia; in patients with CRB only, the excess mortality was 11.5%. The median excess ICU LOS in survivors of NBSI was 9.5 d, and was similar, irrespective of its source. The risk of mortality associated with primary and catheter-related bacteremia appears much lower than that of secondary bacteremia, but is sizable, and the excess LOS incurred by the various categories of bacteremia is comparable. Differentiating catheter-related bacteremia from both primary and other secondary bacteremia appears warranted in studies conducted in critically ill patients.