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"Polyhexamethylene biguanide discs appear safe for central venous catheter infection prevention" Pearse et al (2021).

PHMB dressing for CLABSI prevention


Background: Central venous catheters are prone to infectious complications, affecting morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs. Polyhexamethylene biguanide-impregnated discs at the catheter insertion site may prevent local and bloodstream infection; however, efficacy has not been established in a critical care setting.

Objective: The objective of this study was to pilot test polyhexamethylene biguanide-impregnated discs compared to standard unmedicated dressings for central venous catheter infection prevention in critically ill patients.

Methods: This was a single-centre pilot randomised controlled trial. Adults admitted to intensive care requiring a central venous catheter for >72 h were eligible. Patients with a current bloodstream infection, concurrent central venous catheter, chlorhexidine or polyhexamethylene biguanide allergy, or sensitive skin were excluded. Patients were randomised to receive standard central venous catheter dressings with/without polyhexamethylene biguanide discs.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome was feasibility, defined by patient eligibility, recruitment, retention, protocol adherence, missing data, and staff satisfaction. Secondary outcomes included: central line-associated infection; primary bloodstream infection; local infection; skin complications; device/dressing dwell time; serious adverse events, and cost-effectiveness.

Results: Of 309 patients screened, 80 participants were recruited with 98% (n = 78) receiving an internal jugular catheter which dwelled for a median of 5 days (interquartile range = 4.0, 6.0). Feasibility criteria were predominantly met (recruitment 88%; retention 100%; protocol fidelity 91%); however, eligibility criteria were not met (32%; most commonly owing to short predicted catheter dwell). Staff acceptability criteria were met, with 83% of staff scoring dressing application and removal ≥7 on a numerical rating scale. There were no central line-associated bloodstream infections and no local infections. Insertion site itch occurred in 4% (control , intervention ) of participants, while 32% (24/76) reported pain, and 46% (35/76) tenderness.

Conclusions: Polyhexamethylene biguanide discs appear safe for central venous catheter infection prevention. Feasibility of a large efficacy trial was established with some modifications to screening processes. Large, adequately powered randomised controlled trials are needed to test the infection prevention hypotheses.


Pearse I, Marsh N, Rickard CM, Ullman AJ, Larsen E, Pelecanos A, McGuinness N, Irvine L, Rapchuk IL, Ziegenfuss M, Corley A. Polyhexamethylene biguanide discs versus unmedicated dressings for prevention of central venous catheter-associated infection in the intensive care unit: A pilot randomised controlled trial to assess protocol safety and feasibility. Aust Crit Care. 2021 Jul 25:S1036-7314(21)00100-4. doi: 10.1016/j.aucc.2021.05.015. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34321181.