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Int J Artif Organs. 1995 Mar;18(3):117-21.

Uncomplicated central vein catheterization of high risk patients with real time ultrasound guidance.

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Renal Unit, San Paolo Hospital, Milano, Italy.


Internal jugular vein cannulation has become a routine and clinically important aspect of medical care of critically ill patients. The landmark guided technique usually affords rapid and easy vascular access, but is not always successful and may be complicated by arterial puncture, hematoma, or pneumothorax. Some categories of patients, in particular patients with no external landmarks and patients with coagulopathies, appear to be at an increased risk of complications. We report the experience of internal jugular vein cannulation by a single operator with the external landmark technique in 10 patients and with ultrasound guidance in 31 patients, including 12 high risk patients. These patients had severe coagulopathies due to hepatic failure, HELLP syndrome, excess of anticoagulation treatment, or they had no external anatomic landmarks because of anasarca or obesity, were unable to maintain the horizontal position, or were external landmark catheterization failures. With the availability of the ultrasound device, success and complication rates improved markedly, suggesting that the ultrasound technique is easy to learn and rapidly produces an improvement over the external landmark method. In particular the 13 cannulations performed in 12 high risk patients were all successful at the first attempt, with no complications. In the overall population successful cannulations improved from 80% to 100%, first attempt success from 20% to 87% and carotid punctures decreased from 33% to 3.2%. Our results confirm that ultrasound guided cannulation of the internal jugular vein allows safer operation in high risk patients or when access problems are anticipated.

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