Infusion therapy for the administration of blood products, fluids, and parenteral nutrition are essential parts of medical practice. The risks associated with such therapy are well documented but frequently unappreciated. Intravascular infusions are the single most common cause of nosocomial bacteremia.’ Many studies have focused on the epidemiology, microbiology, and pathophysiology of these infections.
In recent years, several companies have introduced a multi-lumen intravenous catheter that is placed through the subclavian or internal jugular vein. Unlike a multi-lumen pulmonary artery catheter, the multi-lumen intravenous catheter is designed solely for intravenous access. The first of these catheters was introduced in 1983, and it was soon followed by several others. These catheters have been designed to allow multiple infusions to be given simultaneously. In addition, one of the ports can be used for venous access. The advantages of these catheters are obvious. The clinician is given three ports for use instead of one. The catheter may be used to simplify infusion therapy. In some instances, cut-downs and other invasive procedures (Hickmans, Broviacs, Mediports) may be avoided. It is not surprising that the use of these catheters has grown. In many institutions, multi-lumen catheters account for a majority of all centrally placed catheters, and in some intensive care units, they are used almost exclusively. The enormous growth of the use of the multi-lumen catheter has occurred despite minimal data regarding risk, cost, and the proper procedures needed for its care.