News Release

RI Hospital researchers: US hospitals flout CDC recommendations that prevent infections

Fewer than half of clinicians surveyed comply with guidelines protecting patients from infections associated with arterial catheters

Peer-Reviewed Publication


According to a survey conducted by Rhode Island Hospital researchers, there is significant variability regarding how clinicians manage catheters placed in the arteries of patients in intensive care units. Some practices may increase risk of infection associated with these catheters. Fewer than half of those surveyed complied with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) infection prevention guidelines for arterial catheter insertions. The study was published today in Critical Care Medicine.

"Barrier precautions are employed inconsistently by critical care clinicians across the nation, and such individuals underestimate the infection risks posed by arterial catheters," said Leonard A. Mermel, D.O., ScM, medical director of the epidemiology and infection control department at Rhode Island Hospital and co-author of the study. "Every effort should be made to prevent such infections since they lead to increased cost, length of stay, and morbidity."

In 2011 the CDC published recommendations specifying that clinicians don sterile gloves, a surgical cap and surgical mask, and use a small sterile drape when these catheters are inserted into the artery of a patient. Of the 1,265 study respondents, only 44 percent reported using the CDC-recommended barrier precautions during insertion and only 15 percent reported using full barrier protections.

"There appears to be a significant deviation from clinical guidelines regarding a very commonly performed procedure in critically ill patients," said Andrew Levinson, M.D., MPH, corresponding author. "Bloodstream infections are largely preventable, and if the survey results mirror the clinical practice in the U.S., there's work to be done in reducing risk of such infections."

The responses were anonymous. Survey participants consisted of members of the Society of Critical Care Medicine, specifically attending physicians, fellows, residents, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

All Lifespan hospitals are fully compliant with the CDC's recommendations. They include Rhode Island Hospital and its pediatric facility, Hasbro Children's Hospital; The Miriam Hospital; and Newport Hospital.

The catheter is commonly used in intensive care medicine and anesthesia to monitor the blood pressure and sample blood gasses directly from the artery. Approximately eight million arterial catheters are placed in U.S. hospitals every year. This type of catheter is a potential source of bloodstream infections because it provides a direct, indwelling, and frequently accessed pathway between the skin and bloodstream.


There was no outside funding for this study. Andrew Levinson's and Leonard Mermel's principal affiliation is Rhode Island Hospital, a member hospital of the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island. They also have academic appointments at Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Other Lifespan researchers contributing to the study were: David M. Cohen, M.D., Gerardo P. Carino, M.D. Ph.D., Daithi S. Hefferman, M.D., Stephanie N. Lueckel M.D., Dorothy Skierkowski M.A., Jason T. Machan Ph.D. and Jeffrey Mazer M.D., who is now affiliated with Lovelace Medical Group , Albuquerque, N.M.

About Rhode Island Hospital

Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the principal teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. Last year, Rhode Island Hospital received more than $50 million in external research funding. It is also home to Hasbro Children's Hospital, the state's only facility dedicated to pediatric care. For more information on Rhode Island Hospital, visit, follow us on Twitter @RIHospital or like us on Facebook

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