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Ethanol Lock Technique: Review of the Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Melissa Maiefski
Department of Pharmaceutical and Nutrition Care, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Mark E. Rupp
Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Elizabeth D. Hermsen*
Department of Pharmaceutical and Nutrition Care, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, Omaha, Nebraska Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Department of Pharmaceutical and Nutrition Care, Nebraska Medical Center, 984031 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-4031 (


Central venous catheters (CVCs) are commonly used among adult and pediatric patients for administration of fluids, medications, and nutrition. Central line–associated (CLA) bloodstream infection (BSI) is a serious complication following CVC insertion. The aim of this review is to summarize available data regarding the ethanol lock technique, which is a proposed method for sterilizing the lumen of the catheter by instilling an ethanol solution and allowing it to dwell in the catheter for a certain amount of time. Studies on ethanol lock technique differ in ethanol concentrations, luminal dwell times, catheter types, inclusion of anticoagulants, use of systemic antibiotics, and use of the technique for prevention or for treatment of CLA BSI. In vitro studies demonstrate the efficacy of ethanol in the eradication of various pathogens. Definitive catheter integrity data are limited. Clinical trials report tolerable adverse events with ethanol locks, as well as encouraging results for prevention and treatment of CLA BSI.

Review Article
Copyright © The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America 2009

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