Purpose: Peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) have become an essential component of the management of an increasing number of patients, including patients who may require hemodialysis. Reported symptomatic venous thrombosis rates associated with PICC lines are based on clinical signs and symptoms and range from 1% to 4%. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the true rate of thrombosis of upper extremity veins after the placement of PICCs and the potential impact on future access in hemodialysis patients.
Materials and methods: A retrospective analysis was performed. Patients who had (i) normal findings during initial venography, (ii) PICC placement, and (iii) who underwent subsequent repeated venography were included. Age, sex, vein cannulated, catheter size, location, and incidence of thrombosis were analyzed.
Results: Three hundred fifty-four PICCs were placed in 119 patients. Of the 144 extremities, 137 had normal findings during initial venography. Of the 137 extremities, 32 developed thrombosis of the cannulated vein (or central veins) after initial PICC placement (23.3%). When all extremities with multiple PICC lines placed were considered, 52 developed thrombosis, for an overall thrombosis rate of 38%. The incidence of thrombosis by site was cephalic 57%, basilic 14%, and brachial 10%. No significant differences were noted in the rates of thrombosis by age, sex, or catheter size.
Conclusions: There is a relatively high rate of venous thrombosis associated with PICCs, particularly cephalic thrombus. Because of the high rate of thrombosis associated with these catheters, an alternative mode of access should be considered in current or potential hemodialysis patients. All patients with a history of PICC line placement requiring dialysis access should undergo upper extremity venography prior to the placement of permanent access.