Background: Long-dwelling tunnelled central venous catheters provide reliable access for infusion therapy of patients with cancer, but can result in serious bloodstream infections. The incidence of such infections has been documented, but few studies have assessed potential risk factors, and to the authors' knowledge, none have measured the effect of neutropenia upon the incidence of these infections.
Methods: A cohort of 71 adult patients with cancer with long-dwelling tunnelled central venous catheters was followed for a total of 12,410 catheter days until catheter removal, death, or end of study for the occurrence of catheter-related infection or sepsis of unknown origin. Fifteen factors were assessed for association with these infections.
Results: Thirteen patients (18%) experienced a catheter-related infection (1.0/1000 catheter days), and 23 (32%) experienced sepsis of unknown origin. Neutropenia was associated significantly with risk for catheter-related infection (relative risk [RR] = 15.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7-86.9) and sepsis of unknown origin (RR = 10.3, 95% CI 4.0-26.8). Inpatient status, acute leukemia, and cytosine arabinoside therapy also were associated with sepsis of unknown origin, but not when adjusted for neutropenia.
Conclusion: Of the 15 potential risk factors studied, neutropenia was the only independent risk factor for infection related to long-dwelling tunnelled central venous catheters and for sepsis of unknown origin.