Diagnosing CLABSI: The clinical use of differential time to positivity from paired blood cultures


Intravenous literature: Beekmann, S.E., Diekema, D.J., Huskins, W.C., Herwaldt, L., Boyce, J.M., Sherertz, R.J. and Polgreen, P.M. (2012) Diagnosing and Reporting of Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infections. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 33(9), p.875-882.


Background – The diagnosis of central line–associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) is often controversial, and existing guidelines differ in important ways.

Objective – To determine both the range of practices involved in obtaining blood culture samples and how central line associated infections are diagnosed and to obtain members opinions regarding the process of designating bloodstream infections as publicly reportable CLABSIs.

Design – Electronic and paper 11-question survey of infectious-diseases physician members of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Emerging Infections Network (IDSA EIN).

Participants – All 1,364 IDSA EIN members were invited to participate.

Results – 692 (51%) members responded; 52% of respondents with adult practices reported that more than half of the blood culture samples for intensive care unit (ICU) patients with central lines were drawn through existing lines. A sizable majority of respondents used time to positivity, differential time to positivity when paired blood cultures are used, and quantitative culture of catheter tips when diagnosing CLABSI or determining the source of that bacteremia. When determining whether a bacteremia met the reportable CLABSI definition, a majority used a decision method that involved clinical judgment.

Conclusions – Our survey documents a strong preference for drawing 1 set of blood culture samples from a peripheral line and 1 from the central line when evaluating fever in an ICU patient, as recommended by IDSA guidelines and in contrast to current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Our data show substantial variability when infectious-diseases physicians were asked to determine whether bloodstream infections were primary bacteremias, and therefore subject to public reporting by National Healthcare Safety Network guidelines, or secondary bacteremias, which are not reportable.

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