Interventions for treating catheter-related bloodstream infections in people receiving maintenance haemodialysis

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022 Apr 1;4(4):CD013554. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013554.pub2.


Background: Patients with kidney failure require vascular access to receive maintenance haemodialysis (HD), which can be achieved by an arteriovenous fistula or a central venous catheter (CVC). CVC use is related to frequent complications such as venous stenosis and infection. Venous stenosis occurs mainly due to trauma caused by the entrance of the catheter into the venous lumen and repeated contact with the vein wall. A biofilm, a colony of irreversible adherent and self-sufficient micro-organisms embedded in a self-produced matrix of exopolysaccharides, is associated with the development of infections in patients with indwelling catheters. Despite its clinical relevance, the treatment of catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs) in patients receiving maintenance HD remains controversial, especially regarding catheter management. Antibiotic lock solutions may sterilise the catheter, treat the infection and prevent unnecessary catheter procedures. However, such treatment may also lead to antibiotic resistance or even clinical worsening in certain more virulent pathogens. Catheter removal and delayed replacement may remove the source of infection, improving infectious outcomes, but this approach may also increase vascular access stenosis, thrombosis or both, or even central vein access failure. Catheter guidewire exchange attempts to remove the source of infection while maintaining access to the same vein and, therefore, may improve clinical outcomes and preserve central veins for future access.

Objectives: To assess the benefits and harms of different interventions for CRBSI treatment in patients receiving maintenance HD through a permanent CVC, such as systemic antibiotics alone or systemic antibiotics combined with either lock solutions or catheter guidewire exchange or catheter replacement.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Kidney and Transplant Register of Studies up to 21 December 2021 through contact with the Information Specialist using search terms relevant to this review. Studies in the Register were identified through searches of CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE, conference proceedings, the International Clinical Trials Register (ICTRP) Search Portal, and

Selection criteria: We included all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs evaluating the management of CRBSI in permanent CVCs in people receiving maintenance HD.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently selected studies for inclusion, assessed their risk of bias, and performed data extraction. Results were expressed as risk ratios (RR) or hazard ratios (HR) for dichotomous outcomes and mean difference (MD) for continuous outcomes, with their 95% confidence intervals (CI). The certainty of the evidence was assessed using GRADE.

Main results: We identified two RCTs and one quasi-RCT that enrolled 760 participants addressing the treatment of CRBSIs in people (children and adults) receiving maintenance HD through CVC. No two studies compared the same interventions. The quasi-RCT compared two different lock solutions (tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) and heparin) with concurrent systemic antibiotics. One RCT compared systemic antibiotics alone and in association with an ethanol lock solution, and the other compared systemic antibiotics with different catheter management strategies (guidewire exchange versus removal and replacement). The overall certainty of the evidence was downgraded due to the small number of participants, high risk of bias in many domains, especially randomisation, allocation, and other sources of bias, and missing outcome data. It is uncertain whether an ethanol lock solution used with concurrent systemic antibiotics improved CRBSI eradication compared to systemic antibiotics alone (RR 1.61, 95% CI 1.16 to 2.23) because the certainty of this evidence is very low. There were no reported differences between the effects of TPA and heparin lock solutions on cure rates (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.15) or between catheter guidewire exchange versus catheter removal with delayed replacement, expressed as catheter infection-free survival (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.43 to 1.79). To date, no results are available comparing other interventions. Outcomes such as venous stenosis and/or thrombosis, antibiotic resistance, death, and adverse events were not reported.

Authors' conclusions: Currently, there is no available high certainty evidence to support one treatment over another for CRBSIs. The benefit of using ethanol lock treatment in combination with systemic antibiotics compared to systemic antibiotics alone for CRBSIs in patients receiving maintenance HD remains uncertain due to the very low certainty of the evidence. Hence, further RCTs to identify the benefits and harms of CRBSI treatment options are needed. Future studies should unify CRBSI and cure definitions and improve methodological design.

Trial registration: NCT03054714 NCT00875069 NCT02604264 NCT00108433 NCT01483872 NCT02040818.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catheter-Related Infections* / etiology
  • Catheter-Related Infections* / prevention & control
  • Central Venous Catheters* / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Heparin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects
  • Sepsis* / drug therapy


  • Heparin

Associated data