The semiquantitative culture technique is a standard procedure for the laboratory diagnosis of catheterassociated infections and catheter-associated bacteremia. In a prospective observational study, we evaluated the clinical impact of the semiquantitative culture results on the treatment of the patient. Clinical impact was defined as a change in diagnosis or therapy on the basis of the semiquantitative culture result. One hundred fifty-seven catheters consecutively submitted from the surgical intensive care unit to the laboratory were studied. In 96% of the episodes, no clinical impact was observed. In the other 4%, clinical decisions were guided mainly by the concurrent positive blood cultures. Newer laboratory techniques that do not require removal of the catheter are needed to guide therapeutic decisions.
(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:1299-1302)