Objective: To describe investigations into an increase in hemodialysis-related bacteremia that occurred in our hospital in the first 6 months of 1996.
Setting: Hemodialysis unit in a tertiary-care medical center.
Methods: Prospective surveillance for hemodialysis bacteremia has been performed for several years. Cases that occurred in 1995 were compared to cases in the first 6 months of 1996. Unit data on dialysis runs and method of dialysis access were used to calculate rates. Nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to type 18 Staphylococcus aureus isolates from 1996. A case-control study comparing 80 randomly selected hemodialysis patients from 1995 and 1996 was performed to examine infection risk factors.
Results: The hemodialysis bacteremia rate was 1.2 per 1,000 runs in 1995 and 2.8 per 1,000 in the first 6 months of 1996 (P=.0009). The 25 cases in 1995 and 32 in the first half of 1996 were similar in age, gender, means of vascular access, and microbial etiology. Central venous catheter (CVC) access accounted for >90% of cases in both time periods. S aureus was the most common microbial etiology (53% of the 1996 cases). PCR typing of S aureus isolates from 1996 demonstrated five different strains, the most common having six isolates. The use of CVCs as a means of vascular access abruptly increased in the unit in January 1996, from <30% of dialysis runs in 1995 to >40% in 1996 (P<.001), associated with structural changes in healthcare delivery in the region resulting in delays in performing surgical procedures, such as creation of vascular grafts and fistulae.
Conclusion: A marked increase in hemodialysis bacteremia occurred in 1996, associated with increased reliance on CVCs for vascular access in hemodialysis patients during a period of healthcare restructuring.