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Ultrasound-guided infraclavicular axillary vein cannulation: a useful alternative to the internal jugular vein

R O'Leary, S M Ahmed, H McLure, J Oram, A Mallick, B Bhambra, A R Bodenham
British Journal of Anaesthesia 2012, 109 (5): 762-8
22923635

BACKGROUND: Ultrasound (US) guidance reduces complications and increases accuracy during internal jugular vein (IJV) cannulation. The subclavian vein (SCV) is popular but is less amenable to US guidance. The axillary vein (AxV), a direct continuation of the SCV, is an alternative, but to date, experience with US is limited to small case series.

METHODS: Retrospective procedural data were collected on 2586 sequential patients referred for insertion of tunnelled central venous access at a UK tertiary centre from 2004 to 2011.

RESULTS: A total of 99.8% of patients tolerated the procedure with local anaesthesia ± sedation; six patients had general anaesthesia. Twenty-six (1%) patients had uncorrected coagulopathy or thrombocytopenia. A total of 2572 (99.5%) of patients were cannulated successfully: right AxV 1644 cases, left AxV 279, right IJV 547, left IJV 89, other techniques 13, and 14 (0.5%) cases failed. The initial site chosen was successful in 96%. In patients who previously underwent long-term cannulation, 93.3% of lines were sited easily. Forty-eight (1.9%) procedural complications occurred.

CONCLUSIONS: In this large analysis of US-guided central venous access in a complex patient group, the majority of patients were cannulated successfully and safely. The subset of patients undergoing AxV cannulation demonstrated a low rate of complications. The AxV route of access appears to be a safe and effective alternative to the IJV.

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