A New Approach to Reducing the HAI Burden

The prevention of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)—particularly bloodstream infections (BSIs) and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP)—has become a focus of critical care and a marker for quality among ICUs due to their significant burden. Under rules created by the CMS, a catheter-related BSI (CR-BSI) is now considered one of the preventable complications that will not be incrementally reimbursed. As a result, hospitals are more closely scrutinizing rates of HAIs and increasingly making efforts to reduce their impact. Assessing Potential Strategies In the March 2010 Archives of Surgery, my colleagues and I published a retrospective analysis of data collected 6 months before and after institution of a chlorhexidine gluconate bathing protocol in a trauma ICU. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic preparation that has demonstrated broad activity against yeasts, viruses, and bacteria (including multi-drug resistant organisms, such as MRSA and Acinetobacter baumannii). The study compared the efficacy of daily bathing with washcloths impregnated with 2% chlorhexidine with that of disposable washcloths without this substance to determine the effect on HAI rates as well as its effect on the rate of isolation of multidrug-resistant organisms. “Using routine decontamination bathing regimens may help decrease the potential for organism transmission.” We observed that introduction of 2% chlorhexidine gluconate to routine, daily whole-body bathing of trauma ICU patients was associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of CR-BSIs. While the incidence of VAP was not significantly affected by chlorhexidine baths, patients who received these baths were less likely to develop MRSA VAP. The rate of colonization with MRSA and Acinetobacter was significantly lower in the chlorhexidine group than in the comparison group. The intervention also appeared to change...