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  • The subclavian approach is preferred for placement of central venous catheters (CVCs).
  • Real-time ultrasound may reduce the mechanical complications associated with CVC insertion.
  • Chlorhexidine-based skin antiseptic solutions reduce the incidence of catheter-related bloodstream infections as compared with povidone-iodine.
  • Almost 50% of hospital-acquired bloodstream infections are caused by staphylococcal species.
  • CVCs should not be replaced nor exchanged over a guidewire on a routine basis.

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Central venous catheters (CVCs) have become an integral part of delivering care in the modern ICU. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in U.S. ICUs there are 15 million CVC days per year (total number of days patients are exposed to CVCs).1 Indications for placement of CVCs include invasive hemodynamic monitoring, administration of vasoactive drugs, administration of caustic agents (e.g., chemotherapy), administration of parental nutrition, renal replacement therapy, large-bore venous access for rapid administration of fluids, and long-term venous access. This chapter focuses on the use of CVCs in the ICU setting. Thus long-term tunneled catheters used for hemodialysis and peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) will not be discussed.

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The clinical presentation often dictates the type of catheter to be inserted. For example, a patient with a hemodynamically significant gastrointestinal hemorrhage may require only a single-lumen, large-bore CVC for volume resuscitation in addition to a peripheral IV, whereas a neutropenic patient with septic shock may require a triple-lumen CVC in order to administer vasoactive drugs and antibiotics simultaneously. Importantly, most evidence suggests that the number of catheter lumens does not affect the rate of CVC infectious complications.2,3 Once the type of catheter has been selected, an anatomic site for insertion needs to be determined. The optimal anatomic location for insertion of CVCs has been a matter of debate for many years. In 2001, Merrer and colleagues4 published a study of 289 patients who were randomized to have their CVCs inserted in either the femoral or subclavian vein. Patients with femoral vein catheters had a dramatically higher incidence of infectious complications (19.8% versus 4.5%; p <0.001) and thrombotic complications (21.5% versus 1.9%; p <0.001) as compared with patients with subclavian catheters. The overall sum of mechanical complications (i.e., arterial puncture, pneumothorax, hematoma or bleeding, and air embolism) was similar between the two groups. To date, there are no randomized trials comparing subclavian versus internal jugular catheters with regard to infectious complications, although observational studies suggest a lower rate of infectious complications with subclavian catheters and a similar rate of mechanical complications.5,6 As a result of these and other studies,7 the CDC recommends that, if not contraindicated, the subclavian vein should be used for the insertion of nontunneled CVCs in adult patients in an effort to minimize infection risk.

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Infraclavicular Subclavian Approach

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Prior to the insertion of an infraclavicular subclavian CVC, a small rolled-up towel should be placed between the shoulder blades to move the vascular structures to a more anterior position. After the subclavian area has been sterilely prepped and draped (see below) and local anesthesia has been administered, the patient should be placed in the Trendelenburg position. The arm should be positioned at the patient's side so that the shoulder, clavicle, and sternal notch are aligned and perpendicular to the sternum. The subclavian vein arises from the axillary vein and travels beneath the clavicle and inferior to the subclavian artery prior ...

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