THE INTRODUCTION of plastic indwelling intravenous catheters has greatly facilitated longterm parenteral therapy.
This technique, however, has been associated with numerous complications, the most common of which are thrombophlebitis1-7 and phlebitis associated with sepsis.3-5, 8, 9 Other hazards include pulmonary embolism, acute bacterial endocarditis, catheter breakage, and embolism and thrombus formation of the atrial and ventricular endocardium.10
Of particular interest to the authors is the role played by the catheter in local and systemic infection. It has been suggested that bacteria may invade the vein through the cutaneous portal of catheter entry or infect the thrombus which propagates at the catheter tip.9 This initially bland thrombus may become infected through the blood stream by bacteria from a remote site.5 The catheter itself then serves to disseminate infection.
The present study was prompted by these possibilities.
Patients were selected at random from the wards of