COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Accurate placement of central venous catheters: a prospective, randomized, multicenter trial

W T McGee, B L Ackerman, L R Rouben, V M Prasad, V Bandi, D L Mallory
Critical Care Medicine 1993, 21 (8): 1118-23
8339574

OBJECTIVES: a) To define the frequency of dangerous (intracardiac) central venous catheter placement in a multicenter study of large community hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and to evaluate physician responses to this finding. b) To validate right atrial electrocardiography as a technique to assure adherence with recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines regarding the location of central venous catheter tips. c) To conduct a literature review of vascular cannulation and its associated potentially lethal complications.

DESIGN: Prospective, randomized, blinded, multicenter study.

SETTING: Multidisciplinary ICUs in five large community teaching hospitals.

PATIENTS: Consecutive patients (n = 112) who required a central venous catheter by either internal jugular vein or subclavian vein at four separate hospitals were assessed using 30-cm catheters. Consecutive patients (n = 50) in a fifth hospital who subsequently required a central venous catheter via the internal jugular vein or subclavian vein route were prospectively randomized to receive a 20-cm central venous catheter with either conventional surface-landmark guidance, or with the right atrial electrocardiography-guided technique.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: a) Occurrence rate of malpositioned central venous catheters. b) Ability of right atrial electrocardiography to aid in the accurate placement of central venous catheters.

RESULTS: a) Using conventional placement techniques with a 30-cm catheter, 53 (47%) of 112 initial central venous catheter placements resulted in location of the catheter tip within the heart. Catheter tips were not repositioned to locations outside the right atrium after this finding was identified on initial post-procedure films. b) Using the right atrial electrocardiography technique to place 20-cm central venous catheters resulted in no catheter tip locations within the heart (0/25) vs. 14 (56%) of 25 (p < .0001) intracardiac placements using conventional techniques. c) The literature suggests that serious mechanical complications of central venous catheterization, although uncommon, are associated with a high mortality rate. Deaths are associated with intracardiac placement.

CONCLUSIONS: a) The FDA guidelines regarding catheter tip location (catheter tip should not be in the right atrium) have not been widely publicized. b) The average safe insertion depth for a central venous catheter from the left or right internal jugular vein or subclavian vein is 16.5 cm for the majority of adult patients; a central venous catheter should not be routinely inserted to a depth of > 20 cm. Catheters longer than this size are rarely needed, and potentially dangerous. Catheter tip location is important to document following central venous catheter insertion. Thirty-centimeter central venous catheters should not be used when accessing the central circulation via internal jugular or subclavian veins. c) Right atrial electrocardiography is a technique that assures initial tip position outside the heart in accordance with FDA guidelines. This technique would virtually eliminate the major risk of death (i.e., cardiac perforation) associated with this procedure. d) Recently available, 15- and 16-cm central venous catheters have significant potential to minimize intracardiac placement of central venous catheters by either the internal jugular or subclavian vein route and may become the standard of care.

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