Although the prevention of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) catheter-related infection is crucial, scientific evidence regarding best practices are still lacking.
We conducted an uncontrolled before-and-after study to test whether the introduction of disinfection with 2% chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) and 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) of the exposed circuits and hub in patients treated with ECMO would affect the rate of blood stream infection (BSI) and microbial colonization of the ECMO catheter. We compared the microbiological and clinical data before and after the intervention.
A total of 1740 ECMO catheter days in 192 patients were studied. These were divided into 855 ECMO catheter days in 96 patients before and 885 ECMO catheter days in 96 patients during the intervention. The rates of BSI were significantly decreased during the intervention period at 11.7/1000 ECMO catheter days before vs. 2.3/1000 ECMO catheter days during (difference 9.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.5–17.3, p = 0.019). Furthermore, the colonization of the ECMO catheter was similarly significantly reduced during the intervention period at 10.5/1000 ECMO catheter days before vs. 2.3/1000 ECMO catheter days during intervention (difference 8.3, 95% CI 0.7–15.8, p = 0.032). Hospital mortality (41.7% vs. 24%, p = 0.009) and sepsis-related death (17.7% vs. 6.3%, p = 0.014) were also significantly decreased during intervention.
Extensive disinfection of exposed ECMO circuits and hub with 2% CHG/IPA was associated with a reduction in both BSI and microbial colonization of ECMO catheters. A further randomized controlled study is required to verify these results.