Study objectives: To determine the incidence of catheter-related infection in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) receiving epoprostenol (EPO), and to note an etiologic role for Micrococcus spp, which is rarely reported as a pathogen in the medical literature.
Design: Observational study.
Setting: Two PAH specialty treatment centers, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (Torrance, CA), and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University (New York, NY).
Patients: A total of 192 patients with PAH receiving continuous therapy with IV EPO.
Interventions: From 1987 to 2000, 192 patients with PAH received infusions of EPO via central venous catheter. Catheter care included regular dressing changes with dry gauze using a sterile procedure, without the use of flushes. Patients were asked to report on known infections and treatments, and symptoms. All infections were verified by a telephone call to the patient, care provider, and microbiology laboratory whenever possible.
Measurements and results: There were 335,285 catheter days (mean ± SD, 1,325 ± 974 catheter days). There were 88 clinical catheter infections with 51 blood culture-positive infections, necessitating catheter removal in 38 instances. The following pathogens were isolated: Staphylococcus aureus (25); Micrococcus spp (14); mixed flora (3); coagulase-negative Staphylococcus spp (2); Corynebacterium spp (2); Serratia marcessens (1); Enterobacter spp (1); Pseudomonas aeruginosa (1); enterococci (1); and unidentified Gram-positive cocci (1). The catheter infection rate was 0.26 per 1,000 catheter days.
Conclusions: The use of long-term therapy with continuous EPO appears to be associated with a low incidence of catheter-related infections. Micrococcus spp were the second most common etiologic agent. Caregivers managing patients with PAH must be aware of the risk of catheter infection, as it may contribute to the morbidity and mortality associated with the use of EPO. When isolated, Micrococcus spp should not be viewed as a contaminant, but rather as a true pathogen that may require therapeutic intervention.