What is central venous catheterization?

Updated: Jul 24, 2020
  • Author: E Jedd Roe, lll, MD, MBA, FACEP, FAAEM, MSF, CPE; Chief Editor: Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD  more...
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First described in 1952, central venous catheterization, or central line placement, is a time-honored and tested technique of quickly accessing the major venous system. Its benefits over peripheral access include greater longevity without infection, line security in situ, avoidance of phlebitis, larger lumens, multiple lumens for rapid administration of combinations of drugs, a route for nutritional support, fluid administration, and central venous pressure (CVP) monitoring.

Overall complication rates range up to 15%, [1, 2, 3, 4] with mechanical complications reported in 5-19% of patients, [5, 6, 7] infectious complications in 5-26%, [1, 2, 4] and thrombotic complications in 2-26%. [1] These complications are all potentially life-threatening and, invariably, consume significant resources to treat.

Placement of a central vein catheter is a common procedure, and house staff require substantial training and supervision to become facile with this technique. A physician should have a thorough foreknowledge of the procedure and its complications before placing a central vein catheter.

Compared with femoral site access, internal jugular or subclavian access was associated with a lower risk of catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs) in earlier studies, but subsequent studies (since 2008) found no significant differences in the rate of CRBSIs between these three sites. [8]

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