Objective: To determine whether patients bathed daily with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) have a lower incidence of primary bloodstream infections (BSIs) compared with patients bathed with soap and water.
Methods: The study design was a 52-week, 2-arm, crossover (ie, concurrent control group) clinical trial with intention-to-treat analysis. The study setting was the 22-bed medical intensive care unit (MICU), which comprises 2 geographically separate, similar 11-bed units, of the John H. Stroger Jr (Cook County) Hospital, a 464-bed public teaching hospital in Chicago, Illinois. The study population comprised 836 MICU patients. During the first of 2 study periods (28 weeks), 1 hospital unit was randomly selected to serve as the intervention unit in which patients were bathed daily with 2% CHG-impregnated washcloths (Sage 2% CHG cloths; Sage Products Inc, Cary, Illinois); patients in the concurrent control unit were bathed daily with soap and water. After a 2-week wash-out period at the end of the first period, cleansing methods were crossed over for 24 more weeks. Main outcome measures included incidences of primary BSIs and clinical (culture-negative) sepsis (primary outcomes) and incidences of other infections (secondary outcomes).
Results: Patients in the CHG intervention arm were significantly less likely to acquire a primary BSI (4.1 vs 10.4 infections per 1000 patient days; incidence difference, 6.3 [95% confidence interval, 1.2-11.0). The incidences of other infections, including clinical sepsis, were similar between the units. Protection against primary BSI by CHG cleansing was apparent after 5 or more days in the MICU.
Conclusion: Daily cleansing of MICU patients with CHG-impregnated cloths is a simple, effective strategy to decrease the rate of primary BSIs.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00130221.