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Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) in Intensive Care Units
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Why is this important?

A central line (also known as a central venous catheter) is an intravenous line that is used to give patients fluids and/or medications. Central lines access a major vein close to the heart and can remain in place for up to several months. Despite patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) being at high risk of developing healthcare associated infections (HAIs), central lines are commonly used in this setting [1]. Over the past 5 years, infection rates have fallen substantially but remain a priority area for prevention. CLABSI continue to be a key indicator of the safety of the ICU’s clinical practice processes [2] as they result in prolonged hospital stays, significant morbidity and an increase in mortality [3]-[5],[11].

In 2007-2008, the NSW Central Line-Associated Bacteraemia (CLAB) ICU project was conducted by the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) and the Intensive Care Co-ordination and Monitoring Unit (ICCMU) (now known as Intensive Care NSW), with the support of NSW Health. The project enlisted the participation of 37 NSW ICUs. During the 18-month project, the CLABSI rate reduced from of 3.8/1000 line days (months 1-12) to 1.6/1000 line days (months 13-18) [6]. Based on this project and other successful projects undertaken locally and overseas [3],[7], the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society was later granted funding by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Careto lead a national project to prevent CLABSI in Australian ICUs. The aims of the national project were to:

  • reduce Australian ICU CLABSI to <1/1000 line days, and
  • facilitate accurate and consistent CLABSI measurement, with timely reporting to clinicians and benchmarking opportunities.

Since January 2008, NSW Health has also included CLABSI in its statewide surveillance of HAIs occurring across the state and has collected monthly data on this clinical indicator [8].


[1] Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) & the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC). Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) Prevention Project Report 2012. Accessed November 2013:
[2] Harrington G, Richards M, Solano T, et al. Adult intensive care unit acquired infection. In: Cruickshank M, Ferguson J, editor(s). Reducing harm to patients from health care associated infections: the role of surveillance. Sydney: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care; 2008.
[3] Pronovost P, Needham D, Berenholtz S, et al. An intervention to decrease catheter-related bloodstream infections in the ICU. New Engl J Med. 2006. 355 (26):2725-32.
[4] Halton KA, Cook D, Paterson DL, et al . Cost-effectiveness of a central venous catheter care bundle. PLoS One. 2010; 5(9): e12815
[5] Stevens V, Geiger R, Concannon C, et al. Inpatient costs, mortality and 30-day re-admission in patients with central-line-associated bloodstream infections. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2013; Epub
[6] McLaws ML, Burrell AR. Zero risk for central-line associated bloodstream infections: are we there yet? Crit Care Med. 2012; 40 (2): 388-93.
[7] Collignon P, Dreimanis DE, Beckingham WD, et al. Intravascular catheter bloodstream infections: an effective and sustained hospital-wide prevention program over 8 years. Med J Aust. 2007; 187(10): 551-554.
[8] NSW Health, Healthcare Associated Infection: Clinical Indicator Manual Version 2.0. Accessed 11 November 2013 [Online]:
[11] Pronovost, P J; Watson, S R; Goeschel, C A; Hyzy, R C; Berenholtz, S M Sustaining Reductions in Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections in Michigan Intensive Care Units: A 10-Year Analysis, Am J Med Qual, May 2016



The monthly rate of CLABSI in ICUs across NSW was calculated for the period between January 2009 and Dec 2018. The annual rate of CLABSI in ICU adult patients dropped sharply from 1.43 in 2009 to 0.21 per 1,000 central line days in 2018.

Since 2010, the rates have remained lower than the national agreed target (1.0) (Chart CL01). The rates should however be interpreted with caution as they were based on small number of infections. For example, of the 71,384 central line days reported by ICUs across NSW in 2018, 15 central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) were reported.



The reduction in CLABSI rate during this period is likely to also manifest in a reduction in length of hospitalisation and infection-related morbidity and mortality. Continued effort is required for further incidence reduction.


What we don't know

Although the hospital-associated risk factors for CLABSI are known [9-10] the underlying patient factors associated are also important in determining the likelihood of infection and associated outcomes. Further investigation is required to determine the contribution of these factors.

[9] Wylie MC, Graham DA, Potter-Bynoe G, et al. Risk factors for central line-associated bloodstream infection in pediatric intensive care units. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2010;31(10):1049-56.
[10] Costello JM, Graham DA, Morrow DF, et al. Risk factors for central line-associated bloodstream infection in a pediatric cardiac intensive care unit. Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2009;10(4):453-9.


Chart CL01 - CLABSI in ICU adult patients

Monthly CLABSI rates per 1,000 line days in ICU adult patients (public hospitals), NSW, Jan 2012 - Dec 2018


Source: Clinical Excellence Commission, NSW Ministry of Health.


End Matter

Drafted by: CEC eChartbook team and CEC Governance and Assurance Directorate
Data analysis by: CEC eChartbook team

Reviewed by: CEC Governance and Assurance Directorate
Edited by: CEC eChartbook team

Suggested citation
Clinical Excellence Commission [access year]. eChartbook Portal: Safety and Quality of Healthcare in New South Wales. Sydney: Clinical Excellence Commission. Available at: Accessed (insert date of access).

© Clinical Excellence Commission 2019
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced without prior written permission from the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC). Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be directed to the Director, Information Management, Locked Bag 8, Haymarket, NSW 1240.

Evidence-base for this initiative
Burrell et al. Aseptic insertion of central venous lines to reduce bacteraemia Med J Aust 2011; 194 (11): 583-587 -

Reported elsewhere
Healthcare Associated Infection, NSW MOH -



Chart: CL01

Admin Status: Current, Dec 2018

Indicator Name: CLABSI in ICU adult patients

Description: Monthly CLABSI rate per 1,000 line days in ICU adult patients (public hospitals), NSW, Jan 2012 - Dec 2018

Dimension: Patient safety

Clinical Area: Initiatives in safety and quality health care

Data Inclusions: All CLABSIs in adult patients in ICUs

Data Exclusions: None

Numerator: Total number of CLABSIs in adult patients in ICUs

Denominator: Total number of central line days in adult patients in ICUs

Standardisation: None (crude infection rate per 1,000 central line days calculated)

Data Source: NSW Health Healthcare Associated Infections Data Collection, NSW Ministry of Health

Comments: Not applicable