Pediatric ICUs have more infections than adult ICUs

Pediatric intensive care units have 20 percent higher infection rates than adult ICUs, according to a new investigation from Consumer Reports.

The Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center looked at publically reported data from 92 ICUs in 31 states and Washington, D.C., and found that pediatric ICUs averaged 1.8 bloodstream infections for every 1,000 days children were on central lines, compared with an estimated national average of 1.5 bloodstream infections per 1,000 central line days in adult ICUs in 2009. And for some hospitals, rates went as high as 7.2, more than four times the national average for adult ICUs.

Why do infections seem to strike children in ICUs more than adults? Clinicians tend to leave central lines in longer for children than they do for adult patients and access the lines more frequently, Consumer Reports noted. Kids also have less-developed immune systems, especially children in intensive care.

Certain hospitals also are simply more likely to see higher infection rates with a very sick population.

"Some hospitals are going to appear to have higher rates, and it makes a difference if it's there are transplant patients or cancer patients, who always have central lines," Marlene Miller, vice president for quality transformation for the Children's Hospital Association and vice chair of quality and safety at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, told ABC News.

Five pediatric ICUs reported zero bloodstream infections: Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in St. Paul; Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston; Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J.; Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans; and University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, pediatric ICUs at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville and the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., ranked as the lowest on the list with infection rates twice as high as the national average. Both hospitals said they are trying to do better and working on implementing policies to reduce infections, including standardized central-line insertion and maintenance practices.

To learn more:
- read the Consumer Reports article
- check out the Consumer Reports data
- watch the ABC News report

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