When one or two hospitals get good results with a new method for preventing infections, it’s “interesting.” When 12 do, it’s time to call the method “important.”
Which is the conclusion Gregory Schears, M.D. of Rochester, Minn. reached about his study of 12 diverse hospitals that trialed SwabCap®, a disinfection cap that is used to passively disinfect the top and threads of needleless IV connectors. Excelsior Medical, SwabCap’s maker, is a Dowling & Dennis client.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Association for Vascular Access (AVA) – and in a follow-up clinical webinar Dr. Schears said that a disinfection cap should be considered as part of best practice protocols for eliminating central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), which kill some 30,000 U.S. patients a year according to the CDC.
You can see Dr. Schears talking about the study here: disinfection cap video. There’s also a free webinar by Dr. Schears that provides more detail on his research, available under “Videos,” here.
How did Dr. Schears reach his conclusions?
Traditionally, nurses disinfect a needleless IV connector manually before accessing the catheter line to draw blood or administer medications or nutrition. The usual method involves scrubbing the connector with an alcohol wipe for 15 seconds, then waiting another 30 seconds for the alcohol to dry before entering the line.
Because the method has several steps, takes at least 45 seconds to do correctly, and often must be done many times a day, busy nurses often cut short the time or skip it entirely. Compliance with 45-second “scrub the hub” protocol is also almost impossible to monitor: What hospital can afford to have someone trail every nurse as she goes about her rounds?
The potential for slip-ups with this method is widely believed to be an obstacle to reaching zero CLABSIs.
The SwabCap disinfection cap, which dispenses alcohol when it is pushed and twisted onto the connectors’ threads, addresses the problems with manual disinfection. It goes on in a few seconds. It twists on just one way, like a lid on a jar, which eliminates variance. Its bright orange color handles the compliance issue, because when it is observed in place, compliance is verified.
It also does two things manual disinfection cannot. Because it creates a seal at the base of the threads, the connector top and threads are continually bathed in alcohol between line accesses. Also, prolonged contact with alcohol is proven to improve disinfection. Moreover, when the cap is in place, it is protecting against touch and airborne contamination.
The hospitals that trialed the disinfection cap in Dr. Schears’ study wanted to test whether it could produce lower CLABSI rates than with manual disinfection alone. The cap’s effectiveness was measured by comparing CLABSI data from the eight-month span prior to the cap’s implementation to the eight months following implementation. This retrospective overview encompassed some 92,000 catheter days – a large number for this kind of study.
The cap made a remarkable difference. The average CLABSI rate reduction at the twelve institutions was 61.6%, which is statistically significant (p<0.0020). The hospitals in the study covered the gamut, from medical to surgical to intensive care in both community hospitals and tertiary care facilities.
For years, a nationwide public-private effort has focused on diminishing CLABSIs, but progress has been spotty. The Schears study suggests that a far greater impact might be achieved if more hospitals adopted disinfection caps. Everything we’ve seen about this device – and the study is just the latest in a constant flow of strong results – points in the same direction.
You can see Dr. Schears talking about the study here: disinfection cap video.
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