What is the role of intravascular catheter infection in the pathogenesis of infective endocarditis (IE)?

Updated: Jan 03, 2019
  • Author: John L Brusch, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The incidence of nosocomial bacteremias, mostly associated with intravascular lines, has more than doubled in the last few years. Up to 90% of BSIs caused by these devices are secondary to the placement of various types of central venous catheters. Hickman and Broviac catheters are associated with the lowest rates, presumably because of their Dacron cuffs. Peripherally placed central venous catheters are associated with similar rates.

Intravascular catheters are infected from 1 of the following 4 sources:

  • Infection of the insertion site

  • Infection of the catheter

  • Bacteremia arising from another site

  • Contamination of the infused solution

Bacterial adherence to intravascular catheters depends on the response of the host to the presence of this foreign body, the properties of the organism itself, and the position of the catheter. Within a few days of insertion, a sleeve of fibrin and fibronectin is deposited on the catheter. S aureus adheres to the fibrin component.

S aureus also produces an infection of the endothelial cells (endotheliosis), which is important in producing the continuous bacteremia of S aureus BSIs. Endotheliosis may explain many cases of persistent methicillin-susceptible S aureus (MSSA) and methicillin-resistant S aureus (MRSA) catheter-related BSIs without an identifiable cause.

S aureus catheter-related BSIs occur even after an infected catheter is removed, apparently attributable to specific virulence factors of certain strains of S aureus that invade the adjacent endothelial cells. At some point, the staphylococci re-enter the bloodstream, resulting in bacteremia. [17]

Four days after placement, the risk of infection markedly increases. Lines positioned in the internal jugular are more prone to infection than those placed in the subclavian vein. Colonization of the intracutaneous tract is the most likely source of short-term catheter-related BSIs. Among lines in place for more than 2 weeks, infection of the hub is the major source of bacteremia. In some cases, the infusion itself may be a reservoir of infection.

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