Right atrial thrombi are related to indwelling central venous catheter position: insights into time course and possible mechanism of formation

Am Heart J. 1998 Mar;135(3):457-62. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8703(98)70322-9.


We studied the effect of central line catheters on thrombus formation in the right atrium (RA), including the incidence and echocardiographic characteristics of the catheter-associated thrombus as well as possible clinical implications in patients. We prospectively studied 55 patients by transesophageal echocardiography within 1 week after Hickman catheter implantation and on a follow-up study at 6 to 8 weeks. We succeeded in imaging the catheter tip in 48 of the 55 patients (87%). In the baseline study 13 had the tip placed in the RA, eight at the superior vena cava-atrium junction, and 27 in the superior vena cava. An abnormal mass, consistent with a thrombus, was found in 12.5% of the patients, all of which were seen within the 13-patient (46%) group with the Hickman catheter tip placed in the RA. Hickman catheter insertion is associated with high incidence (12.5%) of early formation of RA thrombus. The formation of these thrombi is asymptomatic and highly associated (p < 0.001) with the catheter tip position in the RA, in contrast to their positioning in the superior vena cava or in its junction with the right atrium. On the basis of these findings, we recommend that special attention and effort be given to placing of the catheter tip in the superior vena cava and avoiding the RA during the implantation procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catheterization, Central Venous / adverse effects*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects
  • Coronary Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Female
  • Heart Atria / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vena Cava, Superior / diagnostic imaging