Great vein and right atrial thrombosis in critically ill infants and children with central venous lines

Chest. 1991 Apr;99(4):963-7. doi: 10.1378/chest.99.4.963.


We performed a retrospective review of echocardiographic data files of infants and children hospitalized in the Newborn and Pediatric Intensive Care Units. Echocardiograms were examined to detect the presence and evolution of great vein and right atrial thrombosis in patients with central venous lines. Thirty-seven patients were identified over a five-year period. Echocardiograms were performed, not routinely, but in response to specific indications including catheter malfunction, thrombocytopenia, persistent chylothorax, bacterial or fungal sepsis, and superior vena cava syndrome. Fifteen of 37 patients died, 13 of them during the hospitalization in which the thrombus was discovered. Thrombolytic agents and surgery were used to treat selected patients, with mixed results. Two of the 22 survivors have significant disability related to the thrombus or complications arising from it. We conclude that great vein and/or right atrial thrombosis is a common complication of central venous catheterization in small infants and children; moreover, the morbidity and mortality relating to this complication is substantial.

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Echocardiography
  • Heart Atria
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Thrombosis / mortality
  • Vena Cava, Superior