Daily antibacterial baths can safely reduce risk of bloodstream infections in critically ill children

Published on January 28, 2013 at 5:07 AM · No Comments

Daily baths with an ordinary antibacterial cleanser can safely reduce the risk of dangerous bloodstream infections in critically ill children, according to a trial conducted in five pediatric hospitals and led by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

A report on the findings of the research -- the first of its kind in children and one of the largest infection-prevention trials to date -- will be published online Jan. 26 in The Lancet.

Conducted among more than 4,000 children hospitalized in 10 pediatric intensive care units in five U.S. hospitals, the study compared standard soap baths with antiseptic baths with diluted chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), a commonly used cleanser that kills viruses, bacteria and fungi.

Children bathed with the antiseptic solution had a 36 percent lower risk of bloodstream infections, compared with those given soap-and-water baths.

Traditionally, bedside bathing has been viewed as nothing more than a comfort measure, the researchers say, but the study findings show that the simple, often overlooked procedure can also be a powerful infection-prevention tool.

"Daily bedside baths with an antiseptic solution may be an easy, quick and relatively cheap way to cut the risk of a potentially life-threatening infection in these vulnerable children," says lead investigator Aaron Milstone, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Bloodstream infections, a common occurrence among critically ill patients, can lead to serious complications, including organ damage and even death. Beyond the human toll, each infection can cost up to $39,000 in additional treatment, the investigators say.

Notably, the researchers add, daily antiseptic baths appeared to reduce bloodstream infections of any origin.

In recent years, patient safety initiatives have focused on -- and made great strides in -- preventing one particular subtype of bloodstream infections, those caused by central venous catheters. But because bloodstream infections often occur even in children without such devices, the protective effects of antiseptic bathing may go beyond catheter-related infections, the researchers say.

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