The placement of central venous catheters was studied prospectively in 138 selected adult patients with hypovolemic shock or in whom rapid volume replacement was needed. The patients were randomized into two groups to receive a central vein catheter: one by basilic vein cutdown and the other by percutaneous subclavian vein placement. The groups were analyzed for success rate, time required for insertion, and complications. The techniques were equally successful (87% in the basilic vein group compared with 91% in the subclavian vein group), and their complication rates were similar (10% compared with 12%). The subclavian vein catheter was inserted more quickly (8.3 minutes compared with 14.4 minutes [P = .0001] for the basilic vein group). Percutaneous subclavian vein catheters can be used successfully in patients with hypovolemic shock and can be place quickly with low complication rates.