Complications and risks of central venous catheter placement in children

E M Johnson, D A Saltzman, G Suh, R A Dahms, A S Leonard
Surgery 1998, 124 (5): 911-6

BACKGROUND: Since Aubaniac's first description in 1952, the use of central venous catheters has increased dramatically; they are now considered commonplace. Placement of these catheters, however, has an associated risk of morbidity and mortality. In most cases, this risk is outweighted by the benefit gained, especially when long-term access to the central venous system is needed for multiple transfusions, chemotherapy, antibiotics, or parenteral nutrition. A large number of central venous catheters are placed in children at our institution, usually by interns and residents.

METHODS: To identify associated risks and complications, we reviewed the records of 1435 consecutive catheterizations in children over a 10-year period. Data collected included age, sex, site of catheterization, type of catheter, primary disease, prior catheterizations, indication for placement, failed attempts, number of attempts, catheter misplacement, level of physician training, new needle punctures, and complications. We then used logistic regression analysis to identify independent risk factors for complications.

RESULTS: We noted 39 (3.1%) perioperative complications, including 19 (1.5%) arterial punctures, 10 (0.8%) pneumothoraces, 6 (0.5%) hemothoraces, 2 (0.2%) cases of superior vena cava syndrome, 1 (0.1%) episode of ventricular fibrillation that required cardioversion, and 1 episode of bleeding that required a cutaneous suture. Univariate analysis revealed that catheters placed in a subclavian vein (vs all other sites combined, P < .01) were less likely to have an associated complication. In addition, multiple attempts (vs success on first attempt, P < .0001), failed attempt (vs success at initial site, P < .0001), catheter misplacement (vs proper initial position, P < .01), and prior catheterizations (vs no prior catheterization, P < .0005) were associated with complications. Logistic regression revealed multiple attempts (vs success on first attempt, odds ratio (OR) = 5.4), failed attempt (vs success at initial site, OR = 5.2), and catheter misplacement (vs proper initial position, OR = 6.9) to be independent risk factors for complications. Age, sex, type of catheter, primary disease, indication for placement, and level of physician training (intern or resident vs staff) were not associated with complications.

CONCLUSIONS: Central venous catheterization in children is relatively safe, with only a 3.2% complication rate and no mortality in our series.

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