A prospective evaluation of the use of femoral venous catheters in critically ill adults

O Durbec, X Viviand, F Potie, R Vialet, J Albanese, C Martin
Critical Care Medicine 1997, 25 (12): 1986-9

OBJECTIVE: To determine the rate of complications following the use of femoral catheters in adults.

DESIGN: Prospective survey of major and minor complications.

SETTING: A mixed medical/surgical intensive care unit (ICU) in a university hospital.

PATIENTS: Eighty consecutive patients admitted to the ICU who underwent right femoral venous catheterization over a 13-month period.

INTERVENTIONS: Patients were carefully monitored for mechanical, infectious, and thrombotic complications. On catheter removal, a lower extremity bilateral phlebographic examination was performed in each patient.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: There were 80 polyurethrane catheters inserted for a mean duration of 8.8 +/- 4.4 (SD) days. Catheters were inserted by interns or residents (75%) or by critical care fellows (25%). Minor complications consisted of arterial puncture (15%), local hematoma (4.4%), local bleeding (3%), and local inflammation (5%). After insertion, 17% of catheter tips were in the right atrium, 13% in the abdominal vena cava, 63% in the thoracic inferior vena cava (correct position), and 8% in aberrant abdominal intravascular positions. After repositioning, 80% of catheter tips were in the thoracic inferior vena cava. One patient developed a catheter-related bacteremia. Catheter-related sepsis were seen in three (3.7%) patients and catheter colonization in 11 (13.7%) patients. No patient had clinical signs of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Bilateral phlebography was performed in 70 patients at the time of catheter removal and was normal in 45 (64%) patients. Fibrin sleeves were seen in 11 (15.7%) patients. Lower extremity deep vein thrombosis developed in 24 (34%) patients. Six (8.5%) patients had femoral vein thrombosis (common femoral vein in two patients, and superficial femoral vein in four patients). Eighteen (25.7%) patients developed popliteal vein or posterior tibial vein thrombosis that was either bilateral (n = 16) or homolateral (n = 2) to the femoral catheter.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on the data from this study, we conclude that femoral vein catheterization with a polyurethane catheter is associated with an 8.5% frequency rate of femoral vein thrombosis. Thrombosis in the popliteal vein or posterior tibial vein is higher (25.7%), but is homolateral to the catheter with only a 2.8% frequency rate. Infectious complications are low and similar to those of other central venous routes. Given the acceptable rate of clinically important complications, femoral venous catheterization offers an attractive alternate site of insertion to the jugular and subclavian veins for central venous access in the critically ill.

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