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Chemotherapy Through the Bloodstream  
Chemotherapy

A central line catheter can be used to deliver chemotherapy .

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Definition  

A central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through a central line catheter . A central line catheter is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. It is used to deliver medication, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy .

If bacteria start to grow on the central line catheter, they can easily enter the blood and cause a serious infection. This can lead to a condition called sepsis , which occurs when bacteria overwhelm the body.

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Causes  

Bacteria normally live on the skin. These bacteria will sometimes track along the outside of the catheter. From the catheter, they can get into the bloodstream.

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Risk Factors  

These factors increase your chance of developing a CLABSI:

  • Having a catheter for a long time
  • Having a catheter that is not coated with an antimicrobial—a substance that kills bacteria
  • Having a catheter inserted into a vein in the thigh
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Being in the intensive care unit
  • Having an infection elsewhere in the body or skin
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Symptoms  

Symptoms of CLABSI may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fast heart rate
  • Redness, swelling, or tenderness at the catheter site
  • Drainage from catheter site
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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests and cultures
  • Urine tests
  • Sputum tests

Your heart may need to be viewed. This can be done with echocardiogram .

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Treatment  

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

  • Antibiotics—Antibiotics are medications used to treat an infection. The kind of antibiotic you will be given depends on which bacteria is found in your blood.
  • Central line care—Often, the central line catheter will need to be removed and replaced by a new catheter.
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Prevention  

At the Hospital  

When you are getting a central line placed, the staff will follow a series of steps to reduce your risk of infection.

There are also steps that you can take to reduce your risk of infection:

  • Ask the staff to take every precaution to prevent an infection.
  • Tell the staff right away if the bandage needs to be changed or if the site is red or sore.
  • Ask everyone entering your hospital room to wash their hands. Do not allow visitors to touch your catheter.

At Home  

  • Follow all instructions concerning your central line.
  • Learn how to take care of your catheter. Follow these general guidelines:
    • Follow specific instructions about showering and bathing.
    • Before touching the catheter, wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer. Wear gloves when touching the area.
    • Change bandages as directed.
    • Wash the catheter caps with an antiseptic.
    • Do not allow anyone to touch the catheter or the tube.
    • Check the insertion site daily for signs of infection, such as redness and swelling.
    • Call your doctor if you think you have an infection.