Routine X-ray control of upper central venous lines: Is it necessary?

O Molgaard, M S Nielsen, B B Handberg, J M Jensen, J Kjaergaard, N Juul
Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 2004, 48 (6): 685-9

BACKGROUND: Insertion of central venous catheters (CVCs) is a procedure associated with a varying risk of complications, depending on the setting and the skill of the clinician who undertakes the procedure. The aim of this study was to monitor the complication rate of CVC insertion and evaluate the value of routine chest X-ray control.

METHODS: Anesthesiologists at eight hospitals filled in a questionnaire immediately after insertion of a CVC. The post-procedural clinical evaluation, including expected complications, was compared to actual radiological findings. Chest X-ray was ordered by the anesthesiologist, and described by staff radiologists.

RESULTS: The clinicians had from 2 months to 30 years of experience as anesthesiologists, and trainees inserted 34% and specialists 66% of the catheters, using landmark techniques. Over a period of 2 months, 473 CVC-insertion procedures were included in the investigation. Two patients (0.4%) had a pneumothorax: one was among the 11 cases in which the clinician suspected complications after the procedure, and another was found in a high-risk patient 13 h after CVC insertion. Both patients were treated successfully with chest tubes. The favorite approach was right vena jugularis interna with 324 (69%) catheters; of these patients one had a pneumothorax, catheter-tip placement was correctly predicted in 317 (97%), and no catheters were repositioned.

CONCLUSION: In the hands of trained clinicians, insertion of CVCs is a safe procedure. We found no value of routine X-ray control and omission of routine chest X-ray must be considered.

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