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Consumer Reports investigation: Pediatric ICU infections common

April 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Eighteen-month-old Josie King died after spending 10 days in a pediatric ICU, where she acquired a deadly infection. A Consumer Reports investigation has found that King'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.

"The pediatric ICUs in our report had infection rates that were 20 percent higher than for adult ICUs," said Consumer Reports Dr. John Santa.

Among the deadliest hospital-acquired infections are those introduced with central-line catheters, which is what King had. Those catheters 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 Jersey.

Dr. Vicki Craig Robert Wood, Johnson University Hospital

"It is essential that the central catheter be placed sterilely, and that nursing staff be specially trained to care for that catheter," said Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Dr. Vicki Craig. Otherwise, fatal infections can occur.

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

It is recommended that parents make sure the child's central-line catheter is kept clean and that all doctors and nurses wash their hands. Also, keep a record of how often the staff changes the catheter and dressing. Finally, ask if the catheter is still needed. The longer it's in, the greater the risk of infection.

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

Local hospitals that earned an above average rating from Consumer Reports include Children's Hospital L.A., Children's Hospital Orange County and Miller Children's in Long Beach.