Real-Time Ultrasound Guidance for Umbilical Venous Cannulation in Neonates With Congenital Heart Disease

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2022 May 1;23(5):e257-e266. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000002919. Epub 2022 Mar 7.


Objectives: Umbilical venous cannulation is the favored approach to perinatal central access worldwide but has a failure rate of 25-50% and the insertion technique has not evolved in decades. Improving the success of this procedure would have broad implications, particularly where peripherally inserted central catheters are not easily obtained and in neonates with congenital heart disease, in whom umbilical access facilitates administration of inotropes and blood products while sparing vessels essential for later cardiac interventions. We sought to use real-time, point-of-care ultrasound to achieve central umbilical venous access in patients for whom conventional, blind placement techniques had failed.

Design: Multicenter case series, March 2019-May 2021.

Setting: Cardiac and neonatal ICUs at three tertiary care children's hospitals.

Patients: We identified 32 neonates with congenital heart disease, who had failed umbilical venous cannulation using traditional, blind techniques.

Interventions: Real-time ultrasound guidance and liver pressure were used to replace malpositioned catheters and achieve successful placement at the inferior cavoatrial junction.

Measurements and main results: In 32 patients with failed prior umbilical venous catheter placement, real-time ultrasound guidance was used to successfully "rescue" the line and achieve central position in 23 (72%). Twenty of 25 attempts (80%) performed in the first 48 hours of life were successful, and three of seven attempts (43%) performed later. Twenty-four patients (75%) were on prostaglandin infusion at the time of the procedure. We did not identify an association between patient weight or gestational age and successful placement.

Conclusions: Ultrasound guidance has become standard of care for percutaneous central venous access but is a new and emerging technique for umbilical vessel catheterization. In this early experience, we report that point-of-care ultrasound, together with liver pressure, can be used to markedly improve success of placement. This represents a significant advance in this core neonatal procedure.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Catheterization, Central Venous* / methods
  • Catheterization, Peripheral* / methods
  • Catheters
  • Central Venous Catheters*
  • Child
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Ultrasonography
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods