Hospitals see decline in care-related infections

The United States is making progress in reducing the spread of infections to patients while they are in the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

Twenty-one states reported reductions in so-called "central line" bloodstream infections from 2009-2010, according to the federal health agency, which used data from a state-by-state tracking system.

A central line is a tube inserted into a large vein of a patient's neck or chest for treatment, often while the patient is in intensive care. When not put in correctly or kept clean, the lines can become "a freeway for germs to enter the body and cause serious bloodstream infections," the CDC said.

Nationwide, there was a 32 percent decline in central line bloodstream infections from 2009-2010, said Dr. Scott Fridkin, deputy chief of the surveillance branch in the CDC's division of health care quality promotion. The decline was even greater at 35 percent among intensive care patients, he said.

Fridkin attributed the reduced number of health care-related infections to national and state prevention efforts.

There were smaller reductions in infections caused by other surgical procedures, Fridkin said. "There's a lot of room for progress with surgical site infection prevention," he said.

With a state-by-state reporting system called the National Health Care Safety Network, launched in 2006, hospitals can compare their own infection rates with similar facilities. More than 5,000 acute-care hospitals now report data to the network.