Clinical Practices in Central Venous Catheter Mechanical Adverse Events

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5 Scopus citations


Background: Over 5 million central venous catheters (CVCs) are placed annually. Pneumothorax and catheter malpositioning are common adverse events (AE) that requires attention. This study aims to evaluate local practices of mechanical complication frequency, type, and subsequent intervention(s) related to mechanical AE with an emphasis on catheter malpositioning. Methods: This is a retrospective review of CVC placements in a tertiary hospital setting from 1/2013 to 12/2013. Pneumothorax and CVC positioning were evaluated on post-insertion chest x-ray (CXR). Malposition was defined as unintended placement of the catheter in a vessel other than the intended superior vena cava on CXR. Catheter reposition was defined as radiographic evidence of a new catheter with removal of the old catheter less than 24hrs after initial placement. Data points analyzed included pneumothorax and thoracostomy rate, CVC malposition frequency, catheter reposition rate, catheter duration, and incidence of complications such as catheter associated venous thrombosis. Result: Among 2045 eligible CVC insertions, pneumothoraces occurred in 14 (0.7%; 95%CI 0.38, 1.17) and malpositions were identified in 275 (13.4%; 95% CI 12.3, 15.3). The proportion of pneumothoraces that required tube thoracostomy was 57%. The proportion of CVCs with malposition that were removed or replaced within 24h was 32.7%. "Malpositioned" catheters that were left in place by the clinical team (n = 185) had an average catheter duration of 8.2 days (95% CI 7.2, 9.3) versus 7.2 days (95% CI 6.17, 8.23) for catheters that were replaced after initial malposition (p = 0.14, t test). The incidence of venous thrombosis in repositioned “malpositioned” catheters was 7.8% versus 4.9% for “malpositioned” catheters that were left in place. Conclusions: Clinically significant catheter malposition and pneumothorax after CVC insertion are low. In this study, replaced and non-replaced “malpositioned” catheters had similar catheter duration and rates of complications, challenging the current dogma of CVC malposition practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1222
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • adverse events
  • catheter malposition
  • central venous catheter
  • chest radiograph
  • pneumothorax
  • ultrasound


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