TUESDAY, March 1 (HealthDay News) -- There has been a dramatic decline in bloodstream infections in intensive care unit patients with central lines, but the number of these infections in general remains too high, a new U.S. government report shows.

From 2001 to 2009, the number of bloodstream infections in intensive care unit (ICU) patients with central lines fell by 58 percent, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. That decrease represented up to 27,000 lives saved and $1.8 billion in excess health care costs, according to the CDC Vital Signs report.

However, the report also showed that an estimated 60,000 bloodstream infections in patients with central lines occurred in non-ICU settings, including kidney dialysis clinics (about 37,000 in 2008) and hospital wards (about 23,000 in 2009).

A bloodstream infection can occur when germs enter the blood through a central line, which is a tube placed in a large vein of a patient's neck or chest. The cause of these infections is often a lack of proper procedures in the placement or maintenance of the central line.

Bloodstream infections in patients with central lines are fatal in as many as 25 percent of cases, the report noted.

The large decrease in bloodstream infections in ICU patients with central lines shows that preventing these infections is possible and that the same preventive practices must be adopted in other health care settings.

"Preventing bloodstream infections is not only possible, it should be expected. Meticulous insertion and care of the central line by all members of the clinical care team, including doctors, nurses and others at the bedside is essential. The next step is to apply what we've learned from this to other health care settings and other health care-associated conditions, so that all patients are protected," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in an agency news release.

More information

The American Thoracic Society has more about central lines.