Background: A central venous catheter (CVC) currently represents the most frequently adopted intravenous line for patients undergoing infusional chemotherapy and/or high-dose chemotherapy with hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation and parenteral nutrition. CVC insertion represents a risk for pneumothorax, nerve or arterial punctures. The aim of this prospective observational study was to explore the safety and efficacy of CVC insertion under ultrasound (US) guidance and to confirm its utility in clinical practice in cancer patients.
Methods: Consecutive adult patients attending the oncology-hematology department were eligible if they had solid or hematologic malignancies and required CVC insertion. Four types of possible complication were defined a priore: mechanical, thrombotic, infection and malfunctioning. The patient was placed in Trendelenburg's position, a 7.5 MHZ puncturing US probe was placed in the supraclavicular site and a 16-gauge needle was advanced under real-time US guidance into the last portion of internal jugular vein. The Seldinger technique was used to place the catheter, which was advanced into the superior vena cava until insertion into right atrium. Within two hours after each procedure, an upright chest X-ray and ultrasound scanning were carried out to confirm the CVC position and to rule out a pneumotorax. CVC-related infections, symptomatic vein thrombosis and malfunctioning were recorded.
Results: From December 2000 to January 2009, 1,978 CVC insertional procedures were applied to 1,660 consecutive patients. The procedure was performed 580 times in patients with hematologic malignancies and 1,398 times those with solid tumors. A single-needle puncture of the vein was performed on 1,948 of 1,978 procedures (98.48%); only eighteen attempts among 1,978 failed (0.9%). No pneumotorax, no major bleeding, and no nerve puncture were reported; four cases (0.2%) showed self-limiting hematomas. The mean lifespan of CVC was 189.7 +/- 18.6 days (range 7-701). Symptomatic deep-vein thrombosis of the upper limbs developed in 48 patients (2.42%). Catheter-related infections occurred in 197 (9.96%) of the catheters inserted. They were successfully treated with antibiotics and only in 48 (2.9%) patients definitive CVC removal was required for infection and/or thrombosis or malfunctioning.
Conclusions: This study represents the largest published series of consecutive patients with cancer undergoing CVC insertion under US guidance; this procedure allowed the completion of the therapeutic program for 1,930/1,978 (97.6%) of the catheters inserted. The absence of pneumotorax and other major complications indicates that US guidance should be mandatory for CVC insertion in patients with cancer.