CDC: Infection rates dropping but more work needed

A report issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed promising results in lowering bloodstream infections among intensive care unit (ICU) patients over the past decade. However, more effort is needed to lower infections found in other hospital locations, according to the CDC's Vital Signs report.

The report found that between 2001 and 2009, about 25,000 fewer central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) cases--a 58 percent reduction--occurred in hospital ICUs. This represented up to 6,000 lives and $414 million saved in potential excess health care costs in 2009--and approximately 27,000 lives and $1.8 billion saved in cumulative excess healthcare costs since 2001, the CDC said.

However, the data appeared less optimistic for locations such as hemodialysis centers where about 10 percent of patients incurred life-threatening central-line infection every year, said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, at a press briefing. About 37,000 bloodstream infections were reported in 2008 among hemodialysis patients with central lines.

In response to the CDC study, Consumers Union said that the CLABSIs report would not be possible without laws adopted in 27 states and the District of Columbia mandating public reporting of infection rates.

"Requiring hospitals to disclose their infection rates has made it possible to track progress and hold hospitals accountable for protecting patients," Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, said in a statement.

Starting this year, hospitals are required to track and report to CDC when patients get CLABSIs in ICUs. The Department of Health and Human Services will issue a public report on these rates later this year.

For more details:
- see the CDC Vital Signs report
- review the Vital Signs fact sheet (.pdf)
- read the Consumers Union comments

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