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BIRMINGHAM (Oct. 26, 2011) – Children’s of Alabama has joined with more than 80 other children’s hospitals across the country in a study that aims to eradicate central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSI) in hospitalized children.

Some of the sickest children in pediatric hospitals are treated through what are known as central lines or catheters inserted into the central circulation. They are used to administer medication and draw blood. In Oct. 2006, the National Association of Children’s Hospital and Related Institutions (NACHRI) launched a quality improvement collaborative which focused on the prevention of CLABSIs in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICUs).  The collaborative developed evidence-based practice related to insertion practices and maintenance care of central venous lines.    

“With initiation of this collaborative the CLABSI rate dropped significantly from 8 per every 1000 central line days to 1.2 per every 1000 central line days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit,” said Dr. Margaret Winkler, medical director of Children’s PICU. “Much of the success in the intensive care unit has been a result of the strong nurse champions who have been responsible for monitoring and educating all of the staff.” Winkler added that with the success of the PICU collaborative, teams in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and the Lowder Bone Marrow Transplant Unit joined the collaborative in Oct. of 2009.

Although Children’s already had an excellent infection control record, its three participating units have lowered central line infection rates by more than 50 percent, with the PICU recently celebrating an infection-free year.  The ultimate goal among all participating centers is to eliminate CLABSI.

CLABSIs are rare, occurring nationally in less than seven per 1,000 central lines, but they can result in serious complications and even death. NACHRI estimates 355 deaths and more than 2,900 central line infections have been prevented since the collaboration began six years ago. Fewer infections have resulted in a savings of more than $100 million.   

“What this project is trying to do is unify efforts so that standard procedures are done across the country in an attempt to decrease the incidence of infection and to raise awareness, decreasing the chance of infection from handling”, said Dr. Roger Berkow, professor and vice chair of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. “That doesn’t mean we were doing it poorly before. It means that now we’re paying more attention to it and learning from other’s experiences, too.”

Lawrence McAndrews, president and CEO of NACHRI, congratulated Children’s on its efforts, saying, “Together, children’s hospitals have successfully eliminated $100 million in preventable hospital costs at a time when legislators are making decisions about critical health care funding. Children’s hospitals are demonstrating that they are leaders in pioneering quality improvement solutions that not only save money, but most importantly save lives.”

 Children’s of Alabama is the only medical center in Alabama dedicated solely to the care and treatment of children. It is a private, not-for-profit hospital that serves as the primary site of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pediatric medicine, surgery, research and residency programs. Ten of its divisions – pulmonology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, urology, neonatology, cancer, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and nephrology—were recently ranked in the Top 50 Children’s Hospital Programs by US News & World Report. Children’s is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet-designated hospital for its excellence of nursing care. The hospital is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011. For more information, visit



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