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Clin Cardiol. 2010 May;33(5):303-6. doi: 10.1002/clc.20770.

A retrospective review to evaluate the safety of right heart catheterization via the internal jugular vein in the assessment of pulmonary hypertension.

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Department of Cardiothoracic Medicine, St. George's Hospital, London, United Kingdom.



Right heart catheterization (RHC) is important in the evaluation of pulmonary hypertension, but is not without risk.


We wished to assess the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of RHC performed via the internal jugular vein (IJV) at our tertiary cardiothoracic center.


A retrospective review of the medical records for all patients undergoing RHC via the IJV between January 1, 2007 and July 31, 2009 was performed. We do not routinely use ultrasound guidance or stop anticoagulation. Operators with a median experience of 450 procedures performed the RHCs.


Right heart catheterization was performed on 349 patients with a median age of 66 years (range, 17-89), median mean pulmonary artery pressure of 30 mm Hg (range, 8-69), and a median internationalized normal ratio of 2.5. Of 349 patients, we were unable to obtain intravenous access in only 1 patient; 342 (98%) patients tolerated RHC with local anesthetic alone; and 6 patients required additional sedation with benzodiazepines. The median time for the procedure was 15 minutes. Complications occurred in 6 patients (1.7%) and included carotid puncture (n = 3), sinus bradycardia below 45 beats/min, which responded promptly to atropine and intravenous fluid (n = 2), and complete heart block without hemodynamic compromise (n = 1). There were no pneumothoraxes, pulmonary hemorrhage, or deaths related to the procedure.


Right heart catheterization via the IJV is quick, safe, and well tolerated. It is not associated with an increased risk of pneumothorax or other complications when performed by experienced operators.

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