Do clinicians know which of their patients have central venous catheters?: a multicenter observational study

Ann Intern Med. 2014 Oct 21;161(8):562-7. doi: 10.7326/M14-0703.


Background: Complications associated with central venous catheters (CVCs) increase over time. Although early removal of unnecessary CVCs is important to prevent complications, the extent to which clinicians are aware that their patients have a CVC is unknown.

Objective: To assess how often clinicians were unaware of the presence of triple-lumen catheters or peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) in hospitalized patients.

Design: Multicenter, cross-sectional study.

Setting: 3 academic medical centers in the United States.

Patients: Hospitalized medical patients in intensive care unit (ICU) and non-ICU settings.

Measurements: To ascertain awareness of CVCs, whether a PICC or triple-lumen catheter was present was determined; clinicians were then queried about device presence. Differences in device awareness among clinicians were assessed by chi-square tests.

Results: 990 patients were evaluated, and 1881 clinician assessments were done. The overall prevalence of CVCs was 21.1% (n=209), of which 60.3% (126 of 209) were PICCs. A total of 21.2% (90 of 425) of clinicians interviewed were unaware of the presence of a CVC. Unawareness was greatest among patients with PICCs, where 25.1% (60 of 239) of clinicians were unaware of PICC presence. Teaching attendings and hospitalists were more frequently unaware of the presence of CVCs than interns and residents (25.8% and 30.5%, respectively, vs. 16.4%). Critical care physicians were more likely to be aware of CVC presence than general medicine physicians (12.6% vs. 26.2%; P=0.003).

Limitations: Awareness was determined at 1 point in time and was not linked to outcomes. Patient length of stay and indication for CVC were not recorded.

Conclusion: Clinicians are frequently unaware of the presence of PICCs and triple-lumen catheters in hospitalized patients. Further study of mechanisms that ensure that clinicians are aware of these devices so that they may assess their necessity seems warranted.

Primary funding source: None.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Awareness*
  • Catheter-Related Infections
  • Central Venous Catheters*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Internship and Residency
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Personnel, Hospital