Risk of venous thromboembolism in hospitalized patients with peripherally inserted central catheters

J Hosp Med. 2009 Sep;4(7):417-22. doi: 10.1002/jhm.442.


Background: Peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC) are increasingly used in hospitalized patients. The benefit can be offset by complications such as upper extremity deep vein thrombosis (UEDVT).

Methods: Retrospective study of patients who received a PICC while hospitalized at the Methodist University Hospital (MUH) in Memphis, TN. All adult consecutive patients who had PICCs inserted during the study period and who did not have a UEDVT at the time of PICC insertion were included in the study. A UEDVT was defined as a symptomatic event in the ipsilateral extremity, leading to the performance of duplex ultrasonography, which confirmed the diagnosis of UEDVT. Pulmonary embolism (PE) was defined as a symptomatic event prompting the performance of ventilation-perfusion lung scan or spiral computed tomography (CT).

Results: Among 777 patients, 38 patients experienced 1 or more venous thromboembolisms (VTEs), yielding an incidence of 4.89%. A total of 7444 PICC-days were recorded for 777 patients. This yields a rate of 5.10 VTEs/1000 PICC-days. Compared to patients whose PICC was inserted in the SVC, patients whose PICC was in another location had an increased risk (odds ratio = 2.61 [95% CI = 1.28-5.35]) of VTE. PICC related VTE was significantly more common among patients with a past history of VTE (odds ratio = 10.83 [95% CI = 4.89-23.95]).

Conclusions: About 5% of patients undergoing PICC placement in acute care hospitals will develop thromboembolic complications. Thromboembolic complications were especially common among persons with a past history of VTE. Catheter tip location at the time of insertion may be an important modifiable risk factor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Catheterization, Peripheral / adverse effects*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Upper Extremity
  • Venous Thromboembolism / epidemiology
  • Venous Thromboembolism / etiology*