In order to determine the incidence of positive line cultures, especially as affected by differing protocols for line insertion, cultures were obtained from lines in residence for up to 4 days from cardiac patients (who received Cefuroxime) and vascular patients (who received Cefazolin) as prophylaxis perioperatively. Positive cultures were obtained from 95 (19%) of 496 lines in cardiac patients and 83 (31%) of 261 lines in vascular patients. There was a linear relationship between duration of line residence and the incidence of positive line cultures, increasing from 14% on Day 1 to 33% on Day 4. The use of full sterile technique at the time of insertion halved the incidence of subsequent positive line cultures. Four of the 403 (1%) patients each had a single episode of postoperative line sepsis. Another four patients developed wound infections with the same organisms as cultured from their lines. One patient has had a vascular graft infection with the same organism cultured as was isolated from a Swan-Ganz line 1 year previously. These data suggest that monitoring lines should be inserted using full sterile technique and removed as soon as the patient is hemodynamically stable.
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