Objective: In many hospitals, the only sterile precautions used during the insertion of a nontunneled central venous catheter are sterile gloves and small sterile drapes. We investigated whether the use of maximal sterile barrier (consisting of mask, cap, sterile gloves, gown, and large drape) would lower the risk of acquiring catheter-related infections.
Design: Prospective randomized trial.
Setting: A 500-bed cancer referral center.
Methods: We randomized patients to have their nontunneled central catheter inserted under maximal sterile barrier precautions or control precautions (sterile gloves and small drape only). All patients were followed for 3 months postinsertion or until the catheter was removed, whichever came first. Catheter-related infections were diagnosed by quantitative catheter cultures and/or simultaneous quantitative blood cultures.
Results: The 176 patients whose catheters were inserted by using maximal sterile barrier precautions were comparable to the 167 control patients in underlying disease, degree of immuno-suppression, therapeutic interventions, and catheter risk factors for infections (duration and site of catheterization, number of catheter lumen, catheter insertion difficulty, reason for catheter removal). There were a total of four catheter infections in the test group and 12 in the control group (P = 0.03, chi-square test). The catheter-related septicemia rate was 6.3 times higher in the control group (P = 0.06, Fisher's exact test). Most (67%) of the catheter infections in the control group occurred during the first 2 months after insertion, whereas 25% of the catheter infections in the maximal sterile precautions group occurred during the same period (P < 0.01, Fisher's exact test). Cost-benefit analysis showed the use of such precautions to be highly cost-effective.
Conclusion: Maximal sterile barrier precautions during the insertion of nontunneled catheters reduce the risk of catheter infection. This practice is cost-effective and is consistent with the practice of universal precautions during an invasive procedure.