OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the incidence of nosocomial infection (NI) in pediatric patients who received cardiothoracic surgery and to identify possible associated risk factors. DESIGN: Prospective observational study. SETTING: The cardiac surgery and cardiac intensive care units at the Regina Margherita Children's Hospital, Turin, Italy. PATIENTS: All patients who underwent surgery from July 20, 1998, to July 19, 1999, were enrolled, except patients with operative catheterization only. METHODS: Clinical data were collected daily from July 20, 1998, to July 19, 1999. NIs were diagnosed according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria. RESULTS: 104 patients were included in the present study, 80 (76.9%) of whom underwent extracorporeal circulation. The NI ratio was 48.1% (50/104); the percentage of patients with NI was 30.8% (32/104): 23.1% developed one infection, 7.7% two or more. The rate of NI was 2.17 per 100 days of hospitalization (50/2,304). The most common pathogen was Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Important risk factors were length of preoperative admission >5 days, total length of admission >10 days, open chest during postoperative phase, and cyanotic heart disease. There was a significant association between sepsis and central venous catheterization for 3 days or more. Rate of sepsis was 19 per 1,000 catheter days (16/852). CONCLUSION: NIs represent a frequent complication for children who undergo heart surgery. Based on our data, we suggest decreasing the preoperative stay as much as possible. The higher NI incidence in patients with an open chest postoperatively suggests that an alternative antibiotic strategy should be considered for these patients.
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