Migration of central venous catheters: Implications for initial catheter tip positioning

Christopher M. Kowalski, John A. Kaufman, S. Mitchell Rivitz, Stuart C. Geller, Arthur C. Waltman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To evaluate the change in position of chest wall central venous access catheters (CVACs) after placement. Complication rates associated with catheter tip position were reviewed. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Fifty patients (36 women, 14 men) with chest wall CVACs placed in the angiography suite were studied. Catheter migration was calculated as the difference between the carina-catheter tip measurements on immediate supine and upright postprocedure (within 24 hours) chest radiographs. Catheter-related complication data were gathered via telephone interview and review of the medical records. RESULTS: Peripheral catheter migration occurred in 49 of 50 patients (average, 3.2 cm ± 1.8); central catheter migration occurred in one of 50 patients (3.9 cm). Catheter type was the only significant factor that affected the amount of migration; side of insertion or the patient's gender were not significant. Catheter malfunction and symptomatic upper extremity venous thrombosis rates tended to be lower in patients with right atrial versus superior vena cava catheters (18% vs 34%), but differences were not significant (P = .202). CONCLUSION: Catheter migration after chest wall CVAC placement is a common event. The catheter tip should be initially positioned approximately 3-4 cm more centrally than the desired final position. Further study is necessary of catheter-related complication rates relative to the final position of the catheter tip.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-447
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Catheters and catheterization, central venous access
  • Catheters and catheterization, complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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