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Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections



A central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) is a serious infection. The infection happens in the bloodstream. It can affect those with a central line catheter. A central line catheter is a long tube inserted into a large vein. It is used to give:

Chemotherapy In the Bloodstream.

A central line catheter can be used to deliver chemotherapy.

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A CLABSI can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.


A CLABSI is caused by bacteria getting on a central line catheter. From the catheter, they can get into the bloodstream. This can happen from bacteria that normally live on the skin.

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of a CLABSI are:

  • Severe illness
  • Weak immune system
  • An infection elsewhere
  • Using a catheter for more than 48 hours
  • Problems with the catheter
  • A catheter that is not coated with an anti-germ substance
  • A catheter inserted into a vein in the groin


CLABSI may cause:

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


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests and cultures
  • Urine tests
  • Sputum tests

Tests will confirm if there is bacteria.


The goal is to clear the infection. This involves:

  • Antibiotics—medicines to treat the infection
  • Central line care—often the catheter is removed and replaced with a new one


Proper catheter care and cleaning can help reduce the risk of a CLABSI.





  • Catheter-related bloodstream infections. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/catheter-related-bloodstream-infection-crbsi.
  • Central venous catheter. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/central-venous-catheter.pdf.
  • Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/central-venous-catheter.
  • FAQs: Catheter-associated bloodstream infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/bsi/BSI_tagged.pdf.
  • Saugel, B., Scheeren, T.W.L., et al. Ultrasound-guided central venous catheter placement: a structured review and recommendations for clinical practice. Critical Care, 2017; 21 (1): 225.


  • Nicole S. Meregian, PA
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.