Background: Three anatomical sites are commonly used to insert central venous catheters, but insertion at each site has the potential for major complications.
Methods: In this multicenter trial, we randomly assigned nontunneled central venous catheterization in patients in the adult intensive care unit (ICU) to the subclavian, jugular, or femoral vein (in a 1:1:1 ratio if all three insertion sites were suitable [three-choice scheme] and in a 1:1 ratio if two sites were suitable [two-choice scheme]). The primary outcome measure was a composite of catheter-related bloodstream infection and symptomatic deep-vein thrombosis.
Results: A total of 3471 catheters were inserted in 3027 patients. In the three-choice comparison, there were 8, 20, and 22 primary outcome events in the subclavian, jugular, and femoral groups, respectively (1.5, 3.6, and 4.6 per 1000 catheter-days; P=0.02). In pairwise comparisons, the risk of the primary outcome was significantly higher in the femoral group than in the subclavian group (hazard ratio, 3.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5 to 7.8; P=0.003) and in the jugular group than in the subclavian group (hazard ratio, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.0 to 4.3; P=0.04), whereas the risk in the femoral group was similar to that in the jugular group (hazard ratio, 1.3; 95% CI, 0.8 to 2.1; P=0.30). In the three-choice comparison, pneumothorax requiring chest-tube insertion occurred in association with 13 (1.5%) of the subclavian-vein insertions and 4 (0.5%) of the jugular-vein insertions.
Conclusions: In this trial, subclavian-vein catheterization was associated with a lower risk of bloodstream infection and symptomatic thrombosis and a higher risk of pneumothorax than jugular-vein or femoral-vein catheterization. (Funded by the Hospital Program for Clinical Research, French Ministry of Health; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01479153.).