Peripherally inserted central venous catheters are not superior to central venous catheters in the acute care of surgical patients on the ward

Simon Turcotte, Serge Dubé, Gilles Beauchamp
World Journal of Surgery 2006, 30 (8): 1605-19

BACKGROUND: Peripherally inserted central venous catheters (PICC) have supplanted central venous catheters (CVC) for the administration of intravenous antibiotics and total parenteral nutrition to patients in our hospital. From the literature, it appears that this change has occurred in a number of other surgical units. Accounting for the change are the expected advantages of low complication rates at insertion, prolonged use without complications and interruption, and cost- and time-savings.

METHODS: We have proceeded with a review of the literature to understand and justify this change in practice. Our hypothesis was that the routine adoption of PICC instead of CVC for the acute care of surgical patients has occurred in the absence of strong scientific evidence. Our aim was to compare the associated infectious, thrombotic, phlebitic, and other common complications, as well as PICC and CVC durability. Articles concerning various aspects of PICC- and CVC-related complications in the acute care of adult patients were selected from the literature. Studies were excluded when they primarily addressed the use of long-term catheters, outpatient care, and pediatric patients. Data were extracted from 48 papers published between 1979 and 2004.

RESULTS: Our results show that infectious complications do not significantly differ between PICC and CVC. Thrombotic complications appear to be more significant with PICC and to occur early after catheterization. Phlebitic complications accounted for premature catheter removal in approximately 6% of PICC. Finally, prospective data suggest that approximately 40% of PICC will have to be removed before completion of therapy, possibly more often and earlier than CVC.

CONCLUSIONS: We believe that there is no clear evidence that PICC is superior to CVC in acute care settings. Each approach offers its own advantages and a different profile of complications. Therefore, the choice of central venous access should be individualized for surgical patients on the ward. More comparative prospective studies are needed to document the advantages of PICC over CVC.

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