10 million drips: Nursing research to review common hospital practice

November 29, 2007

Painful, time-consuming, costly and wasteful - that's what some experts think about the practice of routinely removing and re-inserting the peripheral catheters or 'drips' that provide patients with lifesaving fluids.

Now a definitive study getting underway in three Queensland hospitals will help provide the evidence on whether or not the practice is ineffective and unnecessary. Acute and critical care specialist Professor Claire Rickard, from Griffith University's Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation, leads a team of investigators interested in the management of peripheral catheters.

"In Australia each year about ten million peripheral catheters are inserted in patients' arms or in the backs of their hands to administer blood products, fluids or medications," she said.

"Many of those catheters are routinely re-sited every few days because we thought that helped prevent infection, however there is little evidence to justify the practice." Professor Rickard said unless there was a clinical reason for moving a catheter such as a blockage or irritation of the vein, it was probably more convenient and cost effective to leave them alone.

"Our previous trials in subgroups of patients in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania have found no difference in infection risk with routine re-siting of catheters."

"Patients have to undergo the pain of another needle, it is disruptive to their therapy, and it wastes the time of both doctors and nurses. Plus there is the environmental costs of all that plastic waste," she said.
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The study, to be conducted at the Gold Coast, Princess Alexandra and Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospitals, will involve more than 3,000 patients. It is funded by a $428,750 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Professor Rickard will be speaking about the study at the Gold Coast Health and Medical Research Conference, on Thursday December 6, at the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove. www.griffith.edu.au/school/msc/gchmr.html

Research Australia

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