Peripherally inserted central venous catheters in the acute care setting: A safe alternative to high-risk short-term central venous catheters

Published:October 19, 2009DOI:


      Peripherally inserted central venous catheters (PICCs) serve as an alternative to short-term central venous catheters (CVCs) for providing intravenous (IV) access in the hospital. It is not clear which device has a lower risk of central line–associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). We compared CVC- and PICC-related CLABSI rates in the setting of an intervention to remove high-risk CVCs.


      We prospectively followed patients with CVCs in the non–intensive care units (ICUs) and those with PICCs hospital-wide. A team evaluated the need for the CVC and the risk of infection, recommended the discontinuation of unnecessary or high-risk CVCs, and suggested PICC insertion for patients requiring prolonged access. Data on age, gender, type of catheter, duration of catheter utilization, and the development of CLABSIs were obtained.


      A total of 638 CVCs were placed for 4917 catheter-days, during which 12 patients had a CLABSI, for a rate of 2.4 per 1000 catheter-days. A total of 622 PICCs were placed for 5703 catheter-days, during which 13 patients had a CLABSI, for a rate of 2.3 per 1000 catheter-days. The median time to development of infection was significantly longer in the patients with a PICC (23 vs 13 days; P=.03).


      In the presence of active surveillance and intervention to remove unnecessary or high-risk CVCs, CVCs and PICCs had similar rates of CLABSIs. Given their longer time to the development of infection, PICCs may be a safe alternative for prolonged inpatient IV access.

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