Mechanical complications and malpositions of central venous cannulations by experienced operators. A prospective study of 1794 catheterizations in critically ill patients

Intensive Care Med. 2007 Jun;33(6):1055-9. doi: 10.1007/s00134-007-0560-z. Epub 2007 Mar 7.


Objective: Incidence of primary mechanical complications and malpositions associated with landmark-guided central venous access procedures (CVAP) performed by experienced operators.

Design: Prospective 5-year observational study on two intensive care units.

Intervention: Only CVAPs using Seldinger technique were evaluated. Age, gender, puncture site, number of cannulation attempts, and complications within 24 hours and malpositions were recorded.

Patients: 782 CVAPs in females aged 9-92 yrs and 1012 CVAPs in males aged 6-89 yrs.

Results: We analyzed 1794 (1017 right- and 777 left-sided CVAP), of which 87.7% were accomplished without adverse events. More than one cannulation attempt was a risk factor for failed catheterization, other mechanical complications but not for malposition. Complications/malpositions were encountered in 220 CVAPs.In 51 CVAPs (2.8%) the cannulation failed at the attempted site, here 18 CVAPs were accompanied by further complications (35.3%). Otherwise, the rate for mechanical complications was low (3.3%). The most common mechanical complications (n = 127) were arterial punctures (n = 52; 2.9%), including four arterial cannulations (0.2%), and pneumothorax (n = 9; 0.6%). There was significant risk for arterial puncture with the internal jugular vein approach in comparison to the innominate vein (p = 0.004), but not to the subclavian vein (p = 0.065). Male patients had a lower risk for failure (2.1%) than females (3.8%, p = 0.028). One-hundred-twenty-one central venous catheters were malpositioned (6.7%) of which 35 were related to the left internal jugular vein.

Conclusions: Even experienced operators cause a considerable number of early mechanical complications and malpositions. After two unsuccessful cannulation attempts failure and associated complications are very likely.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheterization / standards*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / standards*
  • Child
  • Critical Illness*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Errors*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies