Retained central venous lines (CVLs) after attempted removal: an 11-year series and literature review

J Pediatr Surg. 2013 Sep;48(9):1887-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2013.01.050.


Background: Central venous lines (CVLs) are frequently used in the management of many neonatal and pediatric conditions. Failure to remove the luminal part of the line (retained CVL) is rare. Consequently, there is lack of experience and consensus in its optimal management.

Aim: To document the incidence and management of retained CVLs in a tertiary pediatric surgical centre with access to interventional cardiology services. To review the literature and report efficacy/morbidity of attempted extraction of retained CVLs.

Methods: Children with retained CVLs were identified from departmental morbidity and mortality records over an 11-year period. A literature search was performed in PubMed and Scopus to identify studies reporting retained CVLs (earliest date to 1 January 2012). This was supplemented by scanning bibliographies of retrieved articles.

Results: The 11-year incidence of retained CVL was 0.3% (n=10; median duration in-situ 66.5 {range 47-146} months). The underlying pathology in 8 was cystic fibrosis. Antegrade transfemoral snare retrieval was successful in 6 of 7 attempts. In the remaining 3, a conservative approach was adopted following consultation with the family. None of the 4 with retained CVL developed complications (median follow-up 7.5 {range 1-53} months). The literature describes 38 pediatric index cases (including 10 from the current series). Seventeen (49%) were managed conservatively either intentionally or by default after failed endovascular removal attempt (n=4). No complications directly attributed to retained CVLs have been reported (median follow-up 40 {range 1-120} months). Reported morbidity associated with endovascular retrieval includes: procedural failure 30%, line embolization 8%, and intra-operative thrombo-embolism 8%.

Conclusion: Literature regarding management of retained CVLs is anecdotal. Although uncommon, the complication should feature in consent for removal of CVLs. Conservative management carries long-term risks of infection, thrombosis, and even migration, albeit unquantified over a child's lifetime. Endovascular retrieval is feasible with appropriate expertise.

Keywords: Central venous line; Complications; Endovascular; Fragments; Removal; Retained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization, Central Venous
  • Central Venous Catheters / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cystic Fibrosis / therapy
  • Device Removal* / methods
  • Endovascular Procedures
  • Equipment Failure
  • Femoral Vein
  • Foreign Bodies / epidemiology*
  • Foreign Bodies / etiology
  • Foreign Bodies / surgery
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Jugular Veins
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Respiration Disorders / therapy
  • Saphenous Vein
  • Subclavian Vein