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Intravenous line tip cultures provide valuable information when taken in conjunction with blood culture, but in practice are often performed in isolation. This retrospective study has evaluated: (1) the frequency of isolated line tip culture; and (2) whether the species of microorganism isolated from line tip culture, using the Maki semi-quantitative culture method, is predictive of bacteraemia. Of 2753 line tip culture episodes in 1659 patients between May 1993 and August 1995, 2230 were performed in isolation (81%). Evaluation of 792 positive line tip culture episodes in 654 patients where blood cultures were performed in the period from 48 h before, to 24 h after tip culture, identified 825 line tip isolates. Of these, 194 were associated with a blood culture positive for the same species. The rate of positive blood culture, according to species, ranged from 10-72%. The highest rate was seen for methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus where 70 of 97 line tip episodes (72%) were associated with positive blood culture. This compared with a rate of 17% for coagulase-negative staphylococci (P < 0.0001). Patients with line tip cultures positive for S. aureus should be considered to be at high risk of bacteraemia.


Journal article


J Hosp Infect

Publication Date





35 - 38


Bacteremia, Catheters, Indwelling, Cross Infection, Humans, Infusions, Intravenous, Staphylococcal Infections