Background: Although chlorhexidine-based solutions and alcohol-based povidone-iodine have been shown to be more efficient than aqueous povidone-iodine for skin disinfection at catheter insertion sites, their abilities to reduce catheter-related infection have never been compared.
Methods: Consecutively scheduled central venous catheters inserted into jugular or subclavian veins were randomly assigned to be disinfected with 5% povidone-iodine in 70% ethanol or with a combination of 0.25% chlorhexidine gluconate, 0.025% benzalkonium chloride, and 4% benzylic alcohol. Solutions were used for skin disinfection before catheter insertion (2 consecutive 30-second applications separated by a period sufficiently long to allow for dryness) and then as single applications during subsequent dressing changes (every 72 hours, or earlier if soiled or wet).
Results: Of 538 catheters randomized, 481 (89.4%) produced evaluable culture results. Compared with povidone-iodine, the chlorhexidine-based solution was associated with a 50% decrease in the incidence of catheter colonization (11.6% vs 22.2% [P = .002]; incidence density, 9.7 vs 18.3 per 1000 catheter-days) and with a trend toward lower rates of catheter-related bloodstream infection (1.7% vs 4.2% [P = .09]; incidence density, 1.4 vs 3.4 per 1000 catheter-days). Independent risk factors for catheter colonization were catheter insertion into the jugular vein (adjusted relative risk, 2.01; 95% confidence interval, 1.24-3.24) and use of povidone-iodine (adjusted relative risk, 1.87; 95% confidence interval, 1.18-2.96).
Conclusion: Chlorhexidine-based solutions should be considered as a replacement for povidone-iodine (including alcohol-based) formulations in efforts to prevent catheter-related infection.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00259350.