It is unknown if disposable electrocardiographic lead wires (ECG-LWs) reduce infection rates compared with cleaned, reusable lead wires.


To compare infection rates in intensive care unit (ICU) patients receiving disposable versus reusable ECG-LWs.


Matched adult ICUs were randomly assigned to disposable or reusable ECG-LWs. Outcomes were bloodstream infection, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and chest surgical site infections. Patients’ characteristics and infections were collected from hospital databases. Event rates were described by using total counts and rates per 100 patient days and were compared between groups by using generalized linear mixed-effect models weighted by patients’ ICU length of stay.


Overall, 4056 patients from 6 ICUs received disposable and 3184 patients from 5 ICUs received reusable ECG-LWs. The characteristics of the 2 groups were similar, except patients receiving disposable ECG-LWs were less likely to be discharged home (P = .03) and had more comorbid conditions (P = .002). Overall infection rates did not differ between ECG-LW groups, between groups in matched ICUs, between groups by infection type, or when only patients with ICU stays longer than 48 hours were considered (2578 cases). In multivariate analyses, infection rates did not differ between all patients in ECG-LW groups or for patients with ICU stays beyond 48 hours (both P = .10).


No difference was observed in infection rates of ICU patients receiving disposable versus reusable ECG-LWs.

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