Ultrasound to Detect Central Venous Catheter Placement Associated Complications: A Multicenter Diagnostic Accuracy Study

Anesthesiology. 2020 Apr;132(4):781-794. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000003126.


Background: Mechanical complications arising after central venous catheter placement are mostly malposition or pneumothorax. To date, to confirm correct position and detect pneumothorax, chest x-ray film has been the reference standard, while ultrasound might be an accurate alternative. The aim of this study was to evaluate diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound to detect central venous catheter malposition and pneumothorax.

Methods: This was a prospective, multicenter, diagnostic accuracy study conducted at the intensive care unit and postanesthesia care unit. Adult patients who underwent central venous catheterization of the internal jugular vein or subclavian vein were included. Index test consisted of venous, cardiac, and lung ultrasound. Standard reference test was chest x-ray film. Primary outcome was diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound to detect malposition and pneumothorax; for malposition, sensitivity, specificity, and other accuracy parameters were estimated. For pneumothorax, because chest x-ray film is an inaccurate reference standard to diagnose it, agreement and Cohen's κ-coefficient were determined. Secondary outcomes were accuracy of ultrasound to detect clinically relevant complications and feasibility of ultrasound.

Results: In total, 758 central venous catheterizations were included. Malposition occurred in 23 (3.3%) out of 688 cases included in the analysis. Ultrasound sensitivity was 0.70 (95% CI, 0.49 to 0.86) and specificity 0.99 (95% CI, 0.98 to 1.00). Pneumothorax occurred in 5 (0.7%) to 11 (1.5%) out of 756 cases according to chest x-ray film and ultrasound, respectively. In 748 out of 756 cases (98.9%), there was agreement between ultrasound and chest x-ray film with a Cohen's κ-coefficient of 0.50 (95% CI, 0.19 to 0.80).

Conclusions: This multicenter study shows that the complication rate of central venous catheterization is low and that ultrasound produces a moderate sensitivity and high specificity to detect malposition. There is moderate agreement with chest x-ray film for pneumothorax. In conclusion, ultrasound is an accurate diagnostic modality to detect malposition and pneumothorax.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / standards*
  • Central Venous Catheters / adverse effects*
  • Central Venous Catheters / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods*
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / standards*