Objective: To compare the frequency of infectious and mechanical complications of central venous and pulmonary artery catheters placed by initial venipuncture vs. over a guidewire at existing sites.
Hypothesis: Exchange of central venous catheters and pulmonary artery catheters over a guidewire as opposed to fresh venipuncture reduces mechanical complications without increasing risk of infection.
Design: Chart audit.
Patients: Medical, surgical, and coronary ICU patients requiring invasive monitoring or central venous access.
Interventions: Patients requiring prolonged catheterization underwent periodic exchange of catheters over a guidewire. Rates of catheter-related infections and mechanical complications were determined for central venous catheters placed by initial venipuncture and those catheters placed by guidewire exchange.
Measurements and main results: Over a 12-month period, 939 catheters were inserted in 454 patients. Of these 939 catheters, 534 were placed by guidewire exchange. Use of a guidewire was associated with a decreased frequency of pneumothorax and hemothorax compared with initial venipuncture (0/405 [0%] vs. 7/534 [1.3%], respectively; p < .05) but not with increased risk of infection (9/405 [2.2%] vs. 14/534 [2.6%], respectively; NS). Guidewire-facilitated replacement of multiple consecutive catheters at the same site did not increase the risk of catheter-related infection. Catheters placed via internal jugular veins were more likely to become infected than catheters placed via subclavian veins (17/477 [3.6%] vs. 3/430 [0.7%], respectively; p < .01).
Conclusions: When prolonged central venous or pulmonary artery catheterization is necessary, periodic catheter replacement over a guidewire is associated with fewer mechanical complications than initial venipuncture. Periodic catheter replacement over a guidewire is also associated with no increase in risk of infection.