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Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2011 Dec;34(12):1585-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8159.2011.03191.x. Epub 2011 Aug 7.

Predictors of axillary vein location for vascular access during pacemaker and defibrillator lead implantation.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, Electrophysiology Section, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.



The axillary vein is a commonly used extrathoracic access site for cardiac rhythm device lead implantation. We sought to describe variation in axillary vein location and identify predictors of a more cranial or caudal radiographic location to facilitate blind venous cannulation.


This was a single-center, retrospective study of patients undergoing lead implantation between 2006 and 2010. The cranial-caudal location of the axillary vein lateral and medial to the rib cage border was determined by reviewing peripheral contrast venograms. Multivariate linear regression was performed.


Of 155 patients, the majority were men (62%) and White (53%). The most frequent position of the lateral and medial axillary vein was over the third rib (40%) and top of the third rib (15%), respectively. In multivariate analysis, whites had a more caudal location of both the lateral (0.56 rib spaces lower, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.22-0.91, P = 0.002) and medial axillary vein (0.50 rib spaces lower, 95% CI 0.85-0.91, P = 0.019). Other independent predictors included an approximate 3-4% higher rib space location for every digit increase in body mass index (BMI) (P = 0.049 for the lateral location and P = 0.016 for the medial location) and an approximate half rib space higher location for males (P = 0.015 for the lateral location and P = 0.013 for the medial location).


The most common radiographic position of the axillary vein was over the third rib. Whites have a more caudal axillary vein location while men and patients with higher BMI have a more cranial position of the axillary vein.

©2011, The Authors. Journal compilation ©2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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