A prospective cohort of 126 patients having long-term central venous catheterization was collected over a 10-month period. The patients were preoperatively assessed for the following risk factors: Previous catheter placement, an absolute neutrophil count less than 500/mm3, a platelet count less than 50 000/mm3, a BUN value greater than 60 mg/dL or a serum creatinine level greater than 2.5 mg/dL, a prothrombin time greater than 1.5 times control, recent sepsis, and a Western blot test positive for HIV. The incidence of perioperative complications was 23%. Complications included pneumothorax, arterial puncture, tunnel hematoma, unsuccessful initial placement, and reaction to local anesthesia or blood products. No single risk factor had any statistical significance in predicting a complication. In the subpopulation of patients having two or more risk factors, the complication rate was 50%, with the majority of these being failed placement attempts. We conclude that inserting a permanent central venous catheter is not a benign procedure, but it can be safely done in critically ill patients. Furthermore, evaluation of preoperative risk factors in candidates for catheterization can be helpful to the surgeon with respect to counseling and operative planning.
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