Central venous catheter tip in the right atrium: a risk factor for neonatal cardiac tamponade

J Perinatol. 2001 Oct-Nov;21(7):461-4. doi: 10.1038/sj.jp.7210541.


Fatal cardiac tamponade is a well recognised complication of the use of central venous catheters in neonatal patients. There is controversy over optimum catheter tip position to balance catheter performance against risk of adverse events. We report a series of five cases of tamponade occurring in one neonatal unit over a 4-year period, related to catheter tip placement in the right atrium. Right atrial catheter angulation, curvature or looping (CA) was present in all five cases on plain radiograph. It was frequently seen in other patients over the same period. Review of the literature indicates that CA was present in 6 of the 11 previous cases where the presence or absence of CA can be determined. Where right atrial catheter tip placement is accepted, clinicians should be aware of this characteristic catheter configuration, which is a major risk factor for cardiac tamponade. We recommend that catheter tips should not be placed in the right atrium to avoid risk of tamponade.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Tamponade / etiology*
  • Cardiac Tamponade / mortality
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects*
  • Heart Atria / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Risk Factors