Peripheral venous catheters: an under-evaluated problem

Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2009:34 Suppl 4:S38-42. doi: 10.1016/S0924-8579(09)70565-5.


Peripheral venous catheters (PVC) are the most frequently used invasive devices in hospitals. Up to 70% of patients require a peripheral venous line during their hospital stay, and conservative estimates suggest that PVC days account for 15-20% of total patient days in acute care hospitals. Most published studies focus on thrombophlebitis and address the issue of scheduled catheter change, but there is still no consensus on the optimal time point for PVC change, or whether catheter replacement is required at all. Although PVC-associated catheter-related bloodstream infections (PVC-BSI) are far more serious than thrombophlebitis, few studies address this issue, and a large multicentre trial is lacking. Some studies on thrombophlebitis mention that no, or only a few, PVC-BSIs were identified, but such results must be interpreted with caution. Current data available on PVC-BSI suggest incidence density rates of 0.2-0.7 episodes per 1000 device days, which appear low when compared with other catheters. However, some studies report absolute PVC-BSI numbers in the range of central line-associated infections. It remains unclear whether PVC-BSI should be considered a serious healthcare problem or simply a very rare event. More research is needed both to capture the dimension of the problem and to provide efficient control measures.

MeSH terms

  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Sepsis / etiology
  • Sepsis / prevention & control
  • Thrombophlebitis / etiology
  • Thrombophlebitis / prevention & control