Having a child in intensive care is a scary ordeal. But a new investigation by Consumer Reports finds there's even more reason to worry. Infections in pediatric intensive-care units occur all too often, and many hospitals could do a much better job of preventing them.
Consumer Reports analyzed 92 pediatric intensive-care units in 31 states and Washington, D.C., for rates of infection. The pediatric ICUs in the report had infection rates that were 20 percent higher than for adult ICUs.
Among the deadliest hospital-acquired infections are those introduced with central-line catheters. Those central-lines deliver medication, nutrition, and fluid to critically ill patients.
It is essential that the central catheter be placed sterilely, and that nursing staff be specially trained to care for that catheter. Otherwise, fatal infections can occur.
Consumer Reports says there are steps parents can take to prevent infection. You must be an advocate for your child. Make sure your child's central-line catheter is kept clean, and that all doctors and nurses wash their hands. Keep a record of how often the staff changes the catheter and dressing. And ask whether the catheter is still needed, because the longer it's in, the greater the risk of infection.
Consumer Reports rated 92 hospitals and gave five top ratings for preventing infections in pediatric intensive-care units. Those are:
- The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey
- St. Paul's Children's Hospitals and Clinics in Minnesota
- The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston
- The Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans
- The University Medical Center in Las Vegas
Less than half of all pediatric ICUs make their infection rates public. So there are many more cases out there than are known about.