In an attempt to overcome infections associated with central venous catheters, a new antiseptic central venous catheter coated with benzalkonium chloride on the internal and external surfaces has been developed and evaluated in a clinical trial. Patients (235) randomly received either a triple-lumen central venous catheter coated with benzalkonium chloride (117) or a polyurethane non-antiseptic catheter (118). The incidence of microbial colonization of both catheters and retained antiseptic activity of the benzalkonium chloride device following removal were determined. The benzalkonium chloride resulted in a significant reduction of the incidence of microbial colonization on both the internal and external catheter surfaces. The reduction in colonization was detected at both the intradermal (21 benzalkonium chloride catheters vs. 38 controls, P=0.0016) and distal segments of the antiseptic-coated catheters. Following catheter removal retained activity was demonstrated in benzalkonium chloride catheters which had been in place for up to 12 days. No patients developed adverse reactions to the benzalkonium chloride catheters. The findings demonstrate that the benzalkonium chloride catheter significantly reduced the incidence of catheter-associated colonization.