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Br J Anaesth. 2004 Aug;93(2):188-92. Epub 2004 Jun 25.

Ultrasound-guided infraclavicular axillary vein cannulation for central venous access.

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Department of Anaesthesia, General Infirmary at Leeds, Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK.

Erratum in

  • Br J Anaesth. 2004 Nov;93(5):752.



Infraclavicular axillary vein cannulation is not commonly used for central venous access because identifying the surface landmarks is difficult. Ultrasound guided axillary vein puncture has not been well described. We assessed ultrasound imaging to guide catheterization of the infraclavicular axillary vein.


In 200 consecutive patients we attempted to catheterize the axillary vein using ultrasound imaging. After successful venepuncture, a tunnelled Hickman line was inserted for long-term central venous access. Surface landmarks of the skin puncture site were measured below the clavicle. We measured the depth of the vein from the skin, the length of the guidewire from skin to carina and the final length of catheter that was inserted.


The axillary vein was successfully punctured with the help of ultrasound imaging with first needle pass in 76% of patients. The axillary vein was catheterized successfully in 96% of the cases. Guidewire malposition was detected and corrected by fluoroscopy in 15% of cases. Complications included axillary artery puncture in three (1.5%) and transient neuralgia in two (1%) cases.


Ultrasound-guided catheterization of the infraclavicular axillary vein is a useful alternative technique for central venous cannulation with few complications.

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