Context Blood culture is the criterion standard for identifying children with
bacteremia. However, elevated false-positive rates are common and are associated
with substantial health care costs.
Objective To compare contamination rates in blood culture specimens obtained from
separate sites vs through newly inserted intravenous catheters.
Design, Setting, and Participants Observational study conducted January 1998 through December 1999 among
patients aged 18 years or younger who were seen at a US children's hospital
emergency department and had a blood culture obtained as part of their care.
Medical records were reviewed in all cases with a positive blood culture.
Patients with indwelling vascular catheters were excluded.
Intervention All phlebotomy was performed by emergency department registered nurses.
During the baseline phase, blood specimens for culture were obtained simultaneously
with intravenous catheter insertion. During the postintervention phase, specimens
were obtained by a separate, dedicated procedure.
Main Outcome Measure Contamination rate in the postintervention period compared with the
Results A total of 4108 blood cultures were evaluated, including 2108 during
the baseline phase and 2000 in the postintervention phase. The false-positive
blood culture rate decreased from 9.1% to 2.8% (P<.001).
A statistical process control chart demonstrated a steady-state process in
the baseline phase and the establishment of a significantly improved steady
state in the postintervention phase. Young age was associated with increased
contamination rate in both the baseline and postintervention periods.
Conclusion Blood culture contamination rates were lower when specimens were drawn
from a separate site compared with when they were drawn through a newly inserted