In 44 neonates (mean birthweight 1207 g and mean gestational age 30.0 weeks), very small central venous catheters were percutaneously inserted via the great saphenous vein on 46 occasions. Catheter-related complications such as catheter blockages in 17 (37%), edema in a unilateral leg in three (6%), and mechanical disruption in two (4%) were noted. Although two of the neonates were found to have bacteremia and five neonates died, none were catheter related. The optimal length of catheter insertion (Y) from the great saphenous vein at the level of the medial maleollus to the inferior vena cava at T9 and L3 was calculated by regression equations utilizing total body length (X). Radiographs taken with extended and flexed leg postures revealed that the catheter tips were retracted with extension of the lower extremities and the degree of displacement ranged from 1 to 4 (mean 2.7) vertebral levels. Because this movement might cause migration into veins that connect to the inferior vena cava, the catheter tip should be located between T9 and L3, except at the renal vein junction. Percutaneous central venous catheterization via the great saphenous vein is safe and useful. Regression equations provided for rapid estimation of the optimal length of insertion.