Background: The plasticizer di-ethylhexyl-phthalate (DEHP) is extracted especially by lipid emulsions from polyvinylchloride infusion systems. The aim of this study was to systematically examine the extraction from perfusion lines commonly used in our hospital for lipid emulsion infusions.
Methods: Perfusion lines made from polyvinylchloride of various lengths and brands, polyethylene, polyvinylchloride/polyethylene (PVC/PE) and polyvinylchloride/polyurethane (PVC/PU), were perfused with lipid emulsions according to the circumstances of newborns on an intensive care unit, i.e. high temperature, 24-hour duration and low quantities. Concentration of di-ethylhexyl-phthalate was determined with gas chromatograph mass spectrometry.
Results: The lipid emulsions before perfusion had a contamination with DEHP of 0.82 microg/ml. Pure PVC lines of 1.5 m length leached between 74 microg/ml and 107 microg/ml. Sterilization of the lines did not influence DEHP extraction. After perfusion of DEHP-free PVC lines and PVC-free lines, the emulsions had a contamination with DEHP of 0.23 microg/ml and 0.11 microg/ml, respectively. PVC/PU co-extruded lines leached 73 microg/ml. PVC/PE lines leached 41.6 microg/ml.
Conclusions: Lipid emulsions contain a production-inherent load of DEHP. Perfusion through PVC-perfusion lines extracts a varying large amount of DEHP depending on length and brand of the perfusion lines. Co-extruded PVC/PU and PVC/PE lines, intended to avoid DEHP contamination, leach a similar amount of DEHP and thus do not avoid the DEHP toxicity issue. The load accumulated by a baby on an intensive care unit easily reaches several milligrams of DEHP per day. As its effect upon biologic systems has been proven, and alternatives (PE or PU perfusion lines) are available, PVC and PVC co-extruded perfusion lines should be abandoned for infusions, especially in babies.