Fibrin sheath enhances central venous catheter infection

John R. Mehall, Daniel A. Saltzman, Richard J. Jackson, Samuel D. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether fibrin-coated central venous catheters have a higher infection rate, and spawn more septic emboli, than uncoated catheters after exposure to bacteremia. Design: Animal study comparing catheter infection and blood cultures of fibrin-coated and uncoated catheters exposed to bacteremia. Setting: Animal laboratory. Subjects: Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Interventions: A total of 210 rats had catheters placed with the proximal end buried subcutaneously. Rats were divided into three groups: tail vein bacterial injection on day 0 (no fibrin group) or on day 10 (fibrin group), or no injection/saline injection (control, n = 40). Bacterial injections were 1 x 108 colony forming units of either Staphylococcus epidermidis (n = 100) or Enterobacter cloacae (n = 60). Animals were killed 3 days after injection. Blood cultures were obtained via cardiac puncture, and catheters were removed via the chest. Half of the catheter was rolled onto agar and the other half was placed in trypticase soy broth. Plates and broth were incubated at 37°C for 48 hrs. The presence of >15 colonies on roll plates, or growth in broth, was accepted as a positive sign of infection. Microscopy was performed on day 20-10 catheters. Thirty animals without catheters had bacterial injections and underwent blood culture 3 days after injection. Measurements and Main Results: Catheter infection with S. epidermidis occurred in 32% of roll plates and 80% of broth from the fibrin group vs. 4% and 20% from the no fibrin group (p < .01 for each). Catheter infection with E. cloacae occurred in 50% of roll plates and 80% of broth from the fibrin group vs. 0% and 12% from the no fibrin group (p < .01 for each). Positive blood cultures occurred in 47 of 68 animals from the fibrin group vs. 8 of 68 from the no fibrin group (p < .01). Microscopy showed a fibrin sheath on 20 of 20 catheters. Without catheters, 30 of 30 blood cultures were negative. Conclusion: The fibrin sheath significantly enhanced catheter-related infection and persistent bacteremia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)908-912
Number of pages5
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Central venous catheter infection
  • Fibrin sheath


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