Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Quality improvement report

Reducing dialysis associated bacteraemia, and recommendations for surveillance in the United Kingdom: prospective study

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 15 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1435
  1. Abraham George, staff grade (alison.holmes{at},
  2. Jerome I Tokars, epidemiologist2,
  3. Elaine J Clutterbuck, consultant nephrologist1,
  4. Kathleen B Bamford, consultant microbiologist3,
  5. Charles Pusey, professor of medicine3,
  6. Alison H Holmes, director of infection prevention and control4
  1. 1 Renal Unit, Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust
  2. 2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  3. 3 Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust
  4. 4 Department of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, London W12 0NN
  1. Correspondence to: A H Holmes
  • Accepted 13 April 2006


Problem Bacteraemia in dialysis units accounts for major morbidity, mortality, and antibiotic usage. Risk is much greater when lines rather than fistulas are used for haemodialysis. Surveillance is critical for infection control, but no standardised surveillance scheme exists in the United Kingdom.

Design Prospective study in a London dialysis unit of the implementation and applicability of a dialysis associated bacteraemia surveillance scheme developed in the United States and its effect on bacteraemia, antibiotic usage, and admission.

Setting Hammersmith Hospital dialysis unit, London, where 112 outpatients receive dialysis three times weekly. Between June 2002 and December 2004, 3418 patient months of data were collected.

Key measures for improvement Successful adoption of the scheme and reductions in bacteraemia rates, antibiotic usage, and admission to hospital.

Strategy for improvement Embedding the surveillance scheme in the unit's clinical activity.

Effects of change Raised awareness of bacteraemia prevention, prudent antibiotic prescribing, and the need for improved provision of vascular access. The scheme required two hours a month of consultant time. Significant downward trends were seen in bacteraemia rates and antibiotic usage: mean rate ratios from quarter to quarter 0.90 (95% confidence interval 0.85 to 0.94) and 0.91 (0.87 to 0.96), respectively. The rate of admission to hospital also showed a significant downward trend, with admissions directly connected to access related infection declining more rapidly: mean rate ratio of successive quarters 0.90 (0.84 to 0.96). The overall proportion of patients dialysed through catheters was significantly higher than in US outpatient centres (62.3% v 29.4%, P < 0.01). Study data were successfully used in a business case to improve access provision.

Lessons learnt Dialysis specific surveillance of bacteraemia is critical to infection control in dialysis units and improving quality of care. Such a scheme could be adopted across the United Kingdom.


  • Contributors AHH started and coordinated the project and is guarantor. AG, overseen by AJC and CP, led the implementation on the unit. AG, EJC, and KBB were responsible for data collection and local feedback. JIT provided the analysis. AHH, AG, and EJC wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the final draft.

  • Funding None.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethical approval The data management and surveillance had Caldicott Guardian approval.

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