Septic emboli caused by vascular catheters after surgery for congenital heart disease

Eldad Erez, Erez Sharoni, Boaz Ovadia, Bernardo A. Vidne, Ovadia Dagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To review the incidence, diagnosis, and management of septic emboli caused by vascular catheters after surgery for congenital heart disease. Design: Retrospective clinical review. All patients were computer registered. Our database includes daily follow-up and every sign of infection registered. Setting: Pediatric cardiac surgery intensive care unit in a university hospital. Patients: A total of 720 consecutive pediatric cardiac operations performed in 108 neonates and 612 older children from 1995 to 1997 are reviewed. Measurements and Main Results: Septic emboli were defined as erythematous non-tender papulonodular hemorrhagic lesions restricted to the limb and distal to the monitoring catheter. Four patients (0.55%) with catheter-related septic emboli after congenital heart surgery were identified, three neonates (0.41%) and one older infant (0.14%). The incidence of catheter-related septic emboli in our patients was significantly higher in the neonatal group compared with older infants (p = .0076; odds ratio=17.45). All infants with catheter-associated septic emboli were severely ill and required prolonged intensive care management postoperatively for periods ranging from 27 to 90 days (mean, 50 days). The catheters involved were in place for periods ranging from 5 to 7 days. All patients were treated by catheter removal and intravenous antibiotics without surgical intervention in the vascular access area. The affected limbs healed well without residual damage. Conclusions: Septic emboli are a rare complication of infected vascular catheters in neonates and small infants undergoing prolonged postoperative intensive care management (0.55%). They may indicate the source of unexplained sepsis involving mainly Gram-negative bacilli. Generally, treatment consists of removal of the offending catheter and antibiotic administration with no need for surgical intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-847
Number of pages3
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Arterial catheters
  • Cardiac surgery
  • Complications
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Pediatric
  • Septic emboli
  • Vascular catheters


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