Objective: To prospectively survey perforation complications of consecutively inserted percutaneous central venous catheters (PCVC) in very low birthweight (VLBW) infants over a 2 year period.
Methodology and results: Three serious perforation complications were encountered in a series of 100 consecutive PCVC. One infant (birthweight 685 g) developed pericardial effusion and fatal cardiac tamponade during the use of a polyurethane PCVC. At autopsy, the pericardial sac contained 8 mL fluid with a glucose concentration of 109 mmol/L and the catheter tip was embedded in the right ventricular wall. The second infant (birthweight 1380 g) showed pleural effusion and transient immobility of the right diaphragmatic leaf after perforation of a similar PCVC into the right pleural cavity. The third perforation, causing subcutaneous oedema, occurred in a 655 g infant who had a silastic PCVC.
Conclusions: The data suggest a 3% incidence for PCVC-associated symptomatic perforation complications and a 1% incidence for fatal perforations, despite a policy of careful placement. The data also indicate that perforation complications occur regardless of the size or material of the PCVC. Proper visualization of the PCVC and vigilant attention to its location is required to prevent these rare but potentially fatal complications.