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Healthcare Central Line Infections are Common but Preventable

  • When people seek medical treatment, acquiring an additional infection because of medical malpractice can be a nightmare. A central line infection can be particularly devastating. An estimated 9,000 of these infections occur every year, and in many cases they may have been preventable. If you have experienced one of these infections, this is what you know about your rights.


    What is a central line infection?


    Most people are already familiar with IV lines. They are used to deliver medication to people, often in a hospital setting, for a short period. Central lines are similar, but they are placed in major veins with the intention of using them to deliver medication over a longer period.


    While these lines offer definite advantages in the reduction of the number of times a patient must be poked to administer their medication, the risk of infection from these lines can be very dangerous. Since the line connects to a major blood line, an infection can be pumped quickly throughout the body. At a minimum, these infections can cause serious pain and discomfort, along with prolonged hospital stays. At the worst, however, these infections can be deadly.


    Why are the rates of central line infections high?


    For years, many doctors regarded central line infections as largely inevitable-- it was so easy for the infection to spread that they were seen almost as the cost of having this type of advanced healthcare available. Given the busy schedules of nurses and doctors, it was not reasonable to expect them to follow long 90-point checklists, which would likely result in lower quality care as people skipped to rushed through steps.


    What has been done to lower the risk of infection?


    Between 2008 and 2013, the incidence of central line infections fell 46 percent. This reduction is due primarily to doctors and hospitals across the country which have instituted simple procedures to prevent infection. Dr. Peter Pronovost at Johns Hopkins University developed a 5-point checklist that helped to ensure cleanliness of the line and the people working with it. At his own hospital, he saw that doctors initially followed all five steps only 30 percent of the time. When he convinced people to adopt his simple checklist, infection rates fell 50 percent in just 3 months. By six months after implementation, they had fallen 70 percent. These results were then replicated in larger studies. In 2006, 103 intensive care units that had implemented the checklist saw infection rates similarly fall 70 percent in just a few months.


    Using the checklist was part of a change in the mindset of medical practitioners. They became less likely to see these infections as inevitable and viewed them as something that could be prevented with proper precautions. As a part of the campaign, all medical personnel were empowered to stop a procedure and correct other team members if they witnessed failure to follow the appropriate steps.


    What this means for people with personal injury cases


    The success that has been seen with the implementation of Pronovost’s checklist has been inspiring, and many ICUs have reported central line infections becoming an exception, rather than a rule. This means that the standard of care may be legally shifting. For a medical malpractice suit to be won, the victim must prove that the attending medical professionals ventured away from the standard of care acceptable in the field. If your personal injury occurred as the result of someone not following these procedures, you may have a case.


    It is important for anyone with a personal injury claim resulting from medical error to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. They will help you determine whether you have a case and what your next steps should be.