Health

Cleaning Up Catheters

A combination of antibiotics can dramatically lower mortality rates at hospitals.

By Lacy SchleyJan 22, 2015 12:00 AM
catheter
Catheters (above) have a valid medical purpose, but without proper treatment, the inner surface can become infected (below) with harmful pathogens, such as the fungus Candida albicans. | UIG/Phototake

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A hospital is a place of healing, but sometimes patients acquire new medical problems during their stays, such as catheter-related bloodstream infections. To prevent these potentially deadly infections, hospitals traditionally use the blood-thinning drug heparin to block germ-attracting blood clots from forming inside catheters. But a Henry Ford Health System study found that cleaning catheters with an antibiotic combination of gentamicin and citrate, instead of heparin, lowered mortality rates a whopping 68 percent. If widely implemented, this simple procedure could save thousands of lives each year.

Dennis Kunkel Microscopy Inc./Phototake

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