Skip to main content

Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What is a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)?

A CLABSI can develop when a virus or bacteria get into your bloodstream through a central line. A CLABSI can cause a fever and chills. You may also develop pain, redness, swelling, or pus where the catheter was inserted.

What increases my risk for a CLABSI?

  • Being very young or elderly
  • A critical illness such as sepsis, major trauma, surgery, burns, or a long hospitalization
  • A weak immune system or a chronic condition such as cardiovascular disease or kidney disease
  • A central line inserted emergently into the groin or left in place for longer than needed
  • Receiving certain medicines or treatments such as IV nutrition through your central line

How is a CLABSI treated?

Your healthcare provider will test a sample of your blood. The tests help find out if your symptoms are caused by an infection. Blood tests or a culture of your central line may also show which germ is causing your infection. You may need any of the following:

  • Removal or change of your central line may be needed to help get rid of the infection.
  • Medicines will be given to treat an infection or decrease pain and fever.

How can I help prevent a CLABSI?

  • Wash your hands often. Always wash before and after you touch your central line. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Tell others to wash their hands before and after they visit.
  • Limit contact with your central line. Only touch your central line to give medicine or clean the parts. Do not let others touch your central line or tubing. Secure the line to your skin. This will help prevent it from moving or causing skin damage that could lead to an infection. Keep the tubing clamped when not in use. The clamp will prevent air and water from getting into your catheter.
  • Clean your skin. Clean your skin every time you change your dressing. Follow directions from your healthcare provider about how to clean your skin. You may need another person to help you. Check your skin each day for signs of infection. Look for redness, swelling, pus, or fluid. Report any pain at the insertion site or signs of infection to your healthcare provider right away.
  • Keep the catheter site dry. Cover the site with a waterproof dressing before you shower. Do not swim, take a bath, or soak in a hot tub. These actions can cause germs to get into your catheter. Change your dressing as directed, and any time it becomes wet, dirty, or moves out of place.
  • Change and clean the caps and tubing. You may need extra tubing to get your medicine. Ask your healthcare provider when and how to change the tubing and caps. Clean the caps before and after each use as directed.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your heart feels like it is beating faster than normal.
  • You feel dizzy or faint.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever, or you have swelling, redness, pain, or pus where the catheter was inserted.
  • Your symptoms do not get better after treatment.
  • You cannot flush your central line, or you feel pain when you flush your central line.
  • You see a hole or crack in the tubing of your central line.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.