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VOLUME 20 , ISSUE 2 ( 2016 ) > List of Articles


A comparative study of epidural catheter colonization and infection in Intensive Care Unit and wards in a Tertiary Care Public Hospital

Minal Harde, Hemlata Iyer, Amol Jatale, Sagar Tiwatne

Keywords : Epidural catheter infection, epidural catheterization, epidural colonization

Citation Information : Harde M, Iyer H, Jatale A, Tiwatne S. A comparative study of epidural catheter colonization and infection in Intensive Care Unit and wards in a Tertiary Care Public Hospital. Indian J Crit Care Med 2016; 20 (2):109-113.

DOI: 10.4103/0972-5229.175943

License: CC BY-ND 3.0

Published Online: 01-08-2013

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2016; The Author(s).


Infection is a potentially serious complication of epidural analgesia and with an increase in its use in wards there is a necessity to demonstrate its safety. We aimed to compare the incidence of colonization of epidural catheters retained for short duration (for 48 h) postoperative analgesia in postanesthesia care unit and wards. It was a prospective observational study done in a tertiary care teaching public hospital over a period of 2 years and included 400 patients with 200 each belonged to two groups PACU and ward. We also studied epidural tip culture pattern, skin swab culture at the entry point of the catheter, their relation to each other and whether colonization is equivalent to infection. Data were analyzed using statistical software GraphPad. Overall positive tip culture was 6% (24), of them 7% (14) were from PACU and 5% (10) were from ward (P = 0.5285). Positive skin swab culture was 38% (150), of them 20% (80) were from PACU and 18% (70) were from ward (P = 0.3526). The relation between positive tip culture and positive skin swab culture in same patients is extremely significant showing a strong linear relationship (95% confidence interval = 0.1053–0.2289). The most common microorganism isolated was Staphylococcus epidermidis. No patient had signs of local or epidural infection. There is no difference in the incidence of epidural catheter tip culture and skin swab culture of patients from the general ward and PACU. Epidural analgesia can be administered safely for 48 h in general wards without added risk of infection. The presence of positive tip culture is not a predictor of epidural space infection, and colonization is not equivalent to infection; hence, routine culture is not needed. Bacterial migration from the skin along the epidural track is the most common mode of bacterial colonization; hence, strict asepsis is necessary.

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