Multidisciplinary team review of best practices for collection and handling of blood cultures to determine effective interventions for increasing the yield of true-positive bacteremias, reducing contamination, and eliminating false-positive central line-associated bloodstream infections

Am J Infect Control. 2015 Nov;43(11):1222-37. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2015.06.030. Epub 2015 Aug 19.


Background: A literature search was conducted using keywords for articles published in English from January 1990 to March 2015. Using criteria related to blood culture collection and handling, the search yielded 101 articles. References used also included Microbiology Laboratory standards, guidelines, and textbook information.

Results: The literature identified diverse and complex issues surrounding blood culture practices, including the impact of false-positive results, laboratory definition of contamination, effect on central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) reporting, indications for collecting blood cultures, drawing from venipuncture sites versus intravascular catheters, selection of antiseptics, use of needleless connectors, inoculation of blood culture bottles, and optimizing program management in emergency departments, education, and implementation of bundled practice initiatives.

Conclusion: Hospitals should optimize best practice in the collection, handling, and management of blood culture specimens, an often overlooked but essential component in providing optimal care of patients in all settings and populations, reducing financial burdens, and increasing the accuracy of reportable CLABSI. Although universal concepts exist in blood culture practices, some issues require further research to determine benefit. Institutions undertaking a review of their blood culture programs are encouraged to use a checklist that addresses elements that encompass the research contained in this review.

Keywords: Bacteremia; Blood culture; Blood culture collection; Blood culture contamination; Central line associated bloodstream infection; Venipuncture.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteremia / diagnosis*
  • Bacteremia / prevention & control*
  • Catheter-Related Infections / diagnosis*
  • Catheter-Related Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Specimen Handling / methods*