Tunneled catheters serve as interim access during maturation of a graft or fistula, or as a permanent vascular access in those patients who have exhausted their traditional access sites. However, bacteremia rates are high in patients with chronic catheters and indiscriminate removal of catheters during bacteremia increases morbidity and costs. A method to identify whether a catheter was colonized with the offending bacteria, without requiring catheter removal is desirable. We compared endoluminal brushing and heparin aspiration, to detect catheter colonization, in 24 asymptomatic patients undergoing elective tunneled hemodialysis catheter removal. The incidence of catheter colonization was highly correlated with catheter duration of ≥ 30 days (p=0.03). Staphylococcus epidermidis represented 68% of the organisms isolated. No other organism accounted for more than 7% of the total. Fifteen (62.5%) of the 24 catheters had positive cultures. Eleven of the catheters were positive by culture of heparin aspirate and eight were positive by endoluminal brushing. Only four of the catheters were positive by both methods. The arterial lumen was more likely to have positive cultures than the venous lumen using either method. In this prospective investigation of tunneled hemodialysis catheters in asymptomatic patients we have demonstrated that a heparin aspirate sample is more likely to detect catheter colonization than a sample obtained using an endoluminal brush. Furthermore, 75% of catheters present for more than 30 days were colonized. Further study is needed to determine if the heparin aspirate method could be used in patients with bacteremia to accurately identify catheters that need removal.
- Bacterial colonization
- Central venous catheter