Impact of revising the National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance System definition for catheter-related bloodstream infection in ICU: Reproducibility of the National Healthcare Safety Network case definition in an Australian cohort of infection control professionals

Leon J. Worth, Judy Brett, Ann L. Bull, Emma S. McBryde, Philip L. Russo, Michael J. Richards

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Background: Effective and comparable surveillance for central venous catheter-related bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) in the intensive care unit requires a reproducible case definition that can be readily applied by infection control professionals. Methods: Using a questionnaire containing clinical cases, reproducibility of the National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance System (NNIS) surveillance definition for CLABSI was assessed in an Australian cohort of infection control professionals participating in the Victorian Hospital Acquired Infection Surveillance System (VICNISS). The same questionnaire was then used to evaluate the reproducibility of the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) surveillance definition for CLABSI. Target hospitals were defined as large metropolitan (1A) or other large hospitals (non-1A), according to the Victorian Department of Human Services. Questionnaire responses of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention NHSN surveillance experts were used as gold standard comparator. Results: Eighteen of 21 eligible VICNISS centers participated in the survey. Overall concordance with the gold standard was 57.1%, and agreement was highest for 1A hospitals (60.6%). The proportion of congruently classified cases varied according to NNIS criteria: criterion 1 (recognized pathogen), 52.8%; criterion 2a (skin contaminant in 2 or more blood cultures), 83.3%; criterion 2b (skin contaminant in 1 blood culture and appropriate antimicrobial therapy instituted), 58.3%; non-CLABSI cases, 51.4%. When survey questions regarding identification of cases of CLABSI criterion 2b were removed (consistent with the current NHSN definition), overall percentage concordance increased to 62.5% (72.2% for 1A centers). Conclusion: Further educational interventions are required to improve the discrimination of primary and secondary causes of bloodstream infection in Victorian intensive care units. Although reproducibility of the CLABSI case definition is relatively poor, adoption of the revised NHSN definition for CLABSI is likely to improve the concordance of Victorian data with international centers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-648
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • catheter-related bloodstream infections
  • central venous catheter
  • intensive care unit
  • Laboratory-confirmed
  • surveillance

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