Purpose of review: Clinicians need information on the relative effectiveness of different types of impregnated central venous catheter for serious infection and their relative costs and adverse effects in order to decide which type, if any, to use.
Recent findings: We systematically reviewed 37 randomized controlled trials involving 11 586 patients. Only seven studies were classified as good on all measures of study quality. Compared with standard catheters, significant and substantial reductions in catheter-related blood stream infection were found for heparin-coated and antibiotic-impregnated central venous catheters. We found no statistically significant benefits of antiseptic central venous catheters, coated with chlorhexidine and silver sulphadiazine, or sliver-impregnated central venous catheters, compared with standard catheters. The few 'head-to-head' comparisons confirmed the benefits of antibiotic impregnation compared with chlorhexidine and silver sulphadiazine or silver impregnation, but no significant difference was found for heparin-coated compared with silver-impregnated central venous catheters. No studies reported serious adverse events, but there is some evidence of antibiotic resistance from in-vitro studies. No impregnated central venous catheter exists for neonates weighing less than 3 kg, and few studies have been undertaken in larger children.
Summary: The most promising options for reducing catheter-related blood stream infection are heparin-coated or antibiotic-impregnated central venous catheters. Large, high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate which of these methods is most effective for reducing clinically important consequences of catheter-associated infection.