Context: Whether venous catheterization at the femoral site is associated with an increased risk of complications compared with that at the subclavian site is debated.
Objective: To compare mechanical, infectious, and thrombotic complications of femoral and subclavian venous catheterization.
Design and setting: Concealed, randomized controlled clinical trial conducted between December 1997 and July 2000 at 8 intensive care units (ICUs) in France.
Patients: Two hundred eighty-nine adult patients receiving a first central venous catheter.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to undergo central venous catheterization at the femoral site (n = 145) or subclavian site (n = 144).
Main outcome measures: Rate and severity of mechanical, infectious, and thrombotic complications, compared by catheterization site in 289, 270, and 223 patients, respectively.
Results: Femoral catheterization was associated with a higher incidence rate of overall infectious complications (19.8% vs 4.5%; P<.001; incidence density of 20 vs 3.7 per 1000 catheter-days) and of major infectious complications (clinical sepsis with or without bloodstream infection, 4.4% vs 1.5%; P =.07; incidence density of 4.5 vs 1.2 per 1000 catheter-days), as well as of overall thrombotic complications (21.5% vs 1.9%; P<.001) and complete thrombosis of the vessel (6% vs 0%; P =.01); rates of overall and major mechanical complications were similar between the 2 groups (17.3% vs 18.8 %; P =.74 and 1.4% vs 2.8%; P =.44, respectively). Risk factors for mechanical complications were duration of insertion (odds ratio [OR], 1.05; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-1.08 per additional minute; P<.001); insertion in 2 of the centers (OR, 4.52; 95% CI, 1.81-11.23; P =.001); and insertion during the night (OR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.04-4.08; P =.03). The only factor associated with infectious complications was femoral catheterization (hazard ratio [HR], 4.83; 95% CI, 1.96-11.93; P<.001); antibiotic administration via the catheter decreased risk of infectious complications (HR, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.18-0.93; P =.03). Femoral catheterization was the only risk factor for thrombotic complications (OR, 14.42; 95% CI, 3.33-62.57; P<.001).
Conclusion: Femoral venous catheterization is associated with a greater risk of infectious and thrombotic complications than subclavian catheterization in ICU patients.