Pediatric ICU Infection Risk

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.

Eighteen-month-old Josie King died after spending 10 days in a pediatric ICU, where she acquired a deadly infection.

And a Consumer Reports investigation has found that Josie's case is not an isolated one. The report analyzed 92 pediatric intensive-care units in 31 states and Washington, D.C. for rates of infection.

Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports says, "The pediatric ICUs in our 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, which is what Josie King had. Those central-lines deliver medication, nutrition, and fluid to critically ill patients.

One of the pediatric ICUs top-rated by Consumer Reports for preventing infections is the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Dr. Vicki Craig, from Robert Wood Johnson University says, "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.

Dr. Santa says, "There are steps you can take to prevent infection. You must be an advocate for your child."

What parents can do-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 if the catheter is still needed-the longer it's in, the greater the risk of infection.

Dr. Santa says, "Less than half of all pediatric ICUs make their infection rates public. So there are many more cases out there than we know about."

Consumer Reports gave four other hospitals top ratings for preventing infections in pediatric intensive-care units:

St. Paul's Children's Hospital 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.

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