First described by Aubaniac in 1952, central venous catheterization, or central line placement, is a time-honored and tested technique of quickly accessing the major venous system. 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. Central vein catheterization is also referred to as central line placement.
Overall complication rates are as high as 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, 8] 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.
The supraclavicular approach was first put into clinical practice in 1965 and is an underused method for gaining central access. It offers several advantages over the infraclavicular approach to the subclavian vein. At the insertion site, the subclavian vein is closer to the skin, and the right-side approach offers a straighter path into the subclavian vein. In addition, this site is often more accessible during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and during active surgical cases. Finally, in patients who are obese, this anatomic area is less distorted.