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Tennessee works to reduce risk of hospital blood infections

Tennessean, August 11, 2010

Tennessee's frailest and tiniest infants go to intensive care units to get healthier, but in some cases the feeding tubes and intravenous lines designed to heal them actually make them sicker, a new state report shows. High-risk babies in Tennessee are 40% more likely than the national average to get blood infections from central lines, the state found in its first detailed look at bacterial blood infections in neonatal intensive care units. Among the tiniest infants, born weighing 1.65 pounds or less, infections were even higher — 70% above the national rate. Health officials said improperly inserted or poorly maintained lines could be driving the high rates. In infants, the lines are put into the umbilical area or in veins in the upper arm. A year-old statewide initiative aims to cut Tennessee's infection rate by more than half in the next five years by bringing together people across the health-care industry, including rival hospitals, to share best practices.