Chlorhexidine bathing in a tertiary care neonatal intensive care unit: impact on central line-associated bloodstream infections

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2014 Feb;35(2):158-63. doi: 10.1086/674862. Epub 2013 Dec 24.


Background: Despite implementation of recommended best practices, our central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) rates remained high. Our objective was to describe the impact of chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) bathing on CLABSI rates in neonates.

Methods: Infants with a central venous catheter (CVC) admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit from April 2009 to March 2013 were included. Neonates with a birth weight of 1,000 g or less, aged less than 28 days, and those with a birth weight greater than 1,000 g were bathed with mild soap until March 31, 2012 (baseline), and with a 2% CHG-impregnated cloth starting on April 1, 2012 (intervention). Infants with a birth weight of 1,000 g or less, aged 28 days or more, were bathed with mild soap during the entire period. Neonatal intensive care unit nurses reported adverse events. Adjusted incidence rate ratios (aIRRs), using Poisson regression, were calculated to compare CLABSIs/1,000 CVC-days during the baseline and intervention periods.

Results: Overall, 790 neonates with CVCs were included in the study. CLABSI rates decreased during the intervention period for CHG-bathed neonates (6.00 vs 1.92/1,000 CVC-days; aIRR, 0.33 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.15-0.73]) but remained unchanged for neonates with a birth rate of 1,000 g or less and aged less than 28 days who were not eligible for CHG bathing (8.57 vs 8.62/1,000 CVC-days; aIRR, 0.86 [95% CI, 0.17-4.44]). Overall, 195 infants with a birth weight greater than 1,000 g and 24 infants with a birth weight of 1,000 g or less, aged 28 days or more, were bathed with CHG. There was no reported adverse event.

Conclusions: We observed a decrease in CLABSI rates in CHG-bathed neonates in the absence of observed adverse events. CHG bathing should be considered if CLABSI rates remain high, despite the implementation of other recommended measures.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Catheter-Related Infections / epidemiology
  • Catheter-Related Infections / prevention & control*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / methods
  • Chlorhexidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / epidemiology
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / prevention & control
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tertiary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • chlorhexidine gluconate
  • Chlorhexidine