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Crit Care Med. 1997 Aug;25(8):1417-24.

Central venous catheter replacement strategies: a systematic review of the literature.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.



To evaluate the effect of guidewire exchange and new-site replacement strategies on the frequency of catheter colonization and infection, catheter-related bacteremia, and mechanical complications in critically ill patients.


We searched for published and unpublished research by means of MEDLINE and Science Citation Index, manual searching of Index Medicus, citation review of relevant primary and review articles, review of personal files, and contact with primary investigators.


From a pool of 151 randomized, controlled trials on central venous catheter management, we identified 12 relevant randomized trials of catheter replacement over a guidewire or at a new site.


In duplicate and independently, we abstracted data on the population, intervention, outcome, and methodologic quality.


As compared with new-site replacement, guidewire exchange is associated with a trend toward a higher rate of catheter colonization (relative risk 1.26, 95% confidence interval 0.87 to 1.84), regardless of whether patients had a suspected infection. Guidewire exchange is also associated with trends toward a higher rate of catheter exit-site infection (relative risk 1.52, 95% confidence interval 0.34 to 6.73) and catheter-related bacteremia (relative risk 1.72, 95% confidence interval 0.89 to 3.33). However, guidewire exchange is associated with fewer mechanical complications (relative risk 0.48, 95% confidence interval 0.12 to 1.91) relative to new-site replacement. Exchanging catheters over guidewires or at new sites every 3 days is not beneficial in reducing infections, compared with catheter replacement on an as-needed basis.


Guidewire exchange of central venous catheters may be associated with a greater risk of catheter-related infection but fewer mechanical complications than new-site replacement. More studies on scheduled vs. as-needed replacement strategies using both techniques are warranted. If guidewire exchange is used, meticulous aseptic technique is necessary.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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