[Usefulness of ultrasonographic techniques in catheterization of the internal jugular vein in patients with chronic heart failure]

M Pozzoli, F Galli, S Capomolla, G Forni, F Cobelli, L Tavazzi
Giornale Italiano di Cardiologia 1994, 24 (10): 1211-21

BACKGROUND: The right internal jugular vein as a route for right heart catheterization and continuous infusion of drugs is increasingly used in patients with heart failure. Although this approach has several advantages, a small but definite number of unsuccessful vein punctures and/or of complications have been reported. This prospective study was designed to evaluate the usefulness of ultrasound techniques for cannulating internal jugular vein in a series of 310 consecutive patients with chronic heart failure.

METHODS: In all patients a duplex scanning of internal jugular veins was performed before the cannulation. A subgroup of 62 patients was selected for having a "difficult" cannulation according to the following criteria: previous failure of cannulating the vein (3 unsuccessful needle advances); neck abnormalities; severe emphysema and respiratory insufficiency. In these patients a Doppler-guidance system, which consisted of a miniature ultrasound Doppler transducer inserted in a standard 19 gauge needle, was used. The needle was advanced under the skin following the maximal audio signal of the venous flow. The following variables were considered: success rate, number of needle advances to cannulate the vein, time elapsed from local anesthesia and the insertion of the catheter, minor and major complications.

RESULTS: Duplex scanning showed that in 14 patients (4.5%) the right internal jugular vein was occluded or severely narrowed. In all patients the left internal jugular vein, which showed a compensatory dilatation, was successfully cannulated. In 294 of the remaining 296 patients the position of the vein was anterior to the carotid artery at a depth of 4-27 mm below the skin. With respect of the triangle formed by the two heads of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, the vein was central in 35%, medial in 15% and lateral in 60% of cases. Based on duplex scanning ultrasound data, 285 patients underwent internal jugular vein cannulation, which was achieved at the first attempt in 74% and within 3 attempts in 87% of cases. Minor and major complications occurred in 4 (1.4%) and in 1 (0.3%) respectively. By the Doppler guidance system, the cannulation was successfully achieved in 79% of patients at the first attempt and in 98% of patients (61/62) within 3 attempts. In one patient an uneventful puncture of the carotid artery occurred. The time to perform the cannulation was not significantly different using the two approaches (conventional approach: 4.4 +/- 3 minutes; Doppler guidance system: 4.2 +/- 2). Overall the internal jugular vein was successfully cannulated in 307/310 patients (99%).

CONCLUSIONS: Ultrasound techniques provide useful information which facilitates the cannulation of the internal jugular vein in patients with heart failure. The Doppler guidance method allows a rapid and safe cannulation of the vein even in cases that are difficult using the conventional approach.

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