Background: Central venous access is an essential part of patient management in many clinical settings and is usually achieved with a blinded, external landmark-guided technique. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether an ultrasound technique can improve on the traditional method.
Methods and results: We prospectively evaluated an ultrasound-guided method in 302 patients undergoing internal jugular venous cannulation and compared the results with 302 patients in whom an external landmark-guided technique was used. Ultrasound was used exclusively in an additional 626 patients. Cannulation of the internal jugular vein was achieved in all patients (100%) using ultrasound and in 266 patients (88.1%) using the landmark-guided technique (p < 0.001). The vein was entered on the first attempt in 78% of patients using ultrasound and in 38% using the landmark technique (p < 0.001). Average access time (skin to vein) was 9.8 seconds (2-68 seconds) by the ultrasound approach and 44.5 seconds (2-1,000 seconds) by the landmark approach (p < 0.001). Using ultrasound, puncture of the carotid artery occurred in 1.7% of patients, brachial plexus irritation in 0.4%, and hematoma in 0.2%. In the external landmark group, puncture of the carotid artery occurred in 8.3% of patients (p < 0.001), brachial plexus irritation in 1.7% (p < 0.001), and hematoma in 3.3% (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Ultrasound-guided cannulation of the internal jugular vein significantly improves success rate, decreases access time, and reduces complication rate. These results suggest that this technique may be preferred in complicated cases or when access problems are anticipated.