What is antibiotic lock therapy?

Antibiotic Lock Therapy

How are catheter-related infections prevented?

Your health care team follows strict rules to help prevent infection. They:

  • Always clean their hands well before any contact with the catheter.
  • Wear sterile gloves and other barriers as needed when they have contact with the catheter.
  • Use catheters made of material that's hard for bacteria to cling to.
  • Clean the catheter site with antiseptics.
  • Cover the catheter site with clean dressings.

You can help to prevent infection. Don't touch your catheter cap or the skin around it. And if the dressing over the catheter cap is coming loose, tell your health care team right away.

All people who come in contact with you should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when they first come into your room.

Your health care team already knows to do this. But sometimes they get in a hurry and forget. If you don't see them wash their hands in your room, remind them to do it. And don't worry about offending them. Just say, "Oops, don't forget to wash your hands!" They want you to say this. In fact, in some hospitals, doctors and nurses wear buttons that say, "Ask me if I've washed my hands."

Visitors need to follow the same rules. That bottle of hand sanitizer next to your bed will be a good reminder. Just hand it to them when they first come in.

What is antibiotic lock therapy (ALT)?

Antibiotic lock therapy (ALT) is a way to clear bacteria from inside a long-term catheter that's in a blood vessel. A catheter is a thin flexible tube. It carries fluids, medicine, or nutrients into the blood.

In ALT, strong antibiotics are placed in the catheter for long enough to kill the bacteria.

How is antibiotic lock therapy (ALT) done?

The first step in ALT is removing the fluid from the catheter. A strong dose of an antibiotic is placed in the catheter. The dose is just enough to fill the catheter without getting the medicine into your body. The antibiotic is left there for up to 12 hours or more.

During that time, the catheter will not be used for nutrition or medicine. It may be marked "Do not use." When treatment is done, the antibiotic is drained. Then the catheter is flushed clean. The catheter can be used again for nutrition and medicines. This treatment may be repeated over days or weeks.

If the bacteria in your catheter caused an infection in your bloodstream, your doctor will give you separate antibiotics to treat that infection.

Why is antibiotic lock therapy (ALT) done?

ALT can help you keep your catheter if you have a blood infection. Long-term catheters help you get nutrition and medicines, such as chemotherapy. But using them increases the risk of infections in the blood. That can be serious. If there is a blood infection, the catheter may be taken out.

But in some cases, your doctor may try to treat the infection in the blood and kill the bacteria in the catheter while leaving the catheter in place. Trying this depends on how bad the blood infection is and what kind of bacteria are involved.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.