Healthcare-associated infections in adult intensive care unit patients: Changes in epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention and contributions of new technologies

Stijn Blot, Etienne Ruppé, Stephan Harbarth, Karim Asehnoune, Garyphalia Poulakou, Charles-Edouard Luyt, Jordi Rello, Michael Klompas, Pieter Depuydt, Christian Eckmann, Ignacio Martin-Loeches, Pedro Povoa, Lila Bouadma, Jean-Francois Timsit, Jean-Ralph Zahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Patients in intensive care units (ICUs) are at high risk for healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) due to the high prevalence of invasive procedures and devices, induced immunosuppression, comorbidity, frailty and increased age. Over the past decade we have seen a successful reduction in the incidence of HAI related to invasive procedures and devices. However, the rate of ICU-acquired infections remains high. Within this context, the ongoing emergence of new pathogens, further complicates treatment and threatens patient outcomes. Additionally, the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic highlighted the challenge that an emerging pathogen provides in adapting prevention measures regarding both the risk of exposure to caregivers and the need to maintain quality of care. ICU nurses hold a special place in the prevention and management of HAI as they are involved in basic hygienic care, steering and implementing quality improvement initiatives, correct microbiological sampling, and aspects antibiotic stewardship. The emergence of more sensitive microbiological techniques and our increased knowledge about interactions between critically ill patients and their microbiota are leading us to rethink how we define HAIs and best strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent these infections in the ICU. This multidisciplinary expert review, focused on the ICU setting, will summarise the recent epidemiology of ICU-HAI, discuss the place of modern microbiological techniques in their diagnosis, review operational and epidemiological definitions and redefine the place of several controversial preventive measures including antimicrobial-impregnated medical devices, chlorhexidine-impregnated washcloths, catheter dressings and chlorhexidine-based mouthwashes. Finally, general guidance is suggested that may reduce HAI incidence and especially outbreaks in ICUs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103227
Pages (from-to)103227
JournalIntensive & critical care nursing
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Mar 2022


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