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PURPOSE: Entrapment of central venous catheters (CVC) at the superior vena cava (SVC) cardiopulmonary bypass cannulation site by closing purse-string sutures is a rare complication of cardiac surgery. Historically, resternotomy has been required for suture release. An endovascular catheter release approach was developed.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Four cases of CVC tethering against the SVC wall and associated resistance to removal, suggestive of entrapment, were encountered. In each case, catheter removal was achieved using a reverse catheter fluoroscopically guided over the suture fixation point between catheter and SVC wall, followed by the placement of a guidewire through the catheter. The guidewire was snared and externalized to create a through-and-through access with the apex of the loop around the suture. A snare placed from the femoral venous access provided concurrent downward traction on the distal CVC during suture release maneuvers.

RESULTS: In the initial attempt, gentle traction freed the CVC, which fractured and was removed in two sections. In the subsequent three cases, traction alone did not release the CVC. Therefore, a cutting balloon was introduced over the guidewire and inflated. Gentle back-and-forth motion of the cutting balloon atherotomes successfully incised the suture in all three attempts. No significant postprocedural complications were encountered. During all cases, a cardiovascular surgeon was present in the interventional suite and prepared for emergent resternotomy, if necessary.

CONCLUSION: An endovascular algorithm to the “entrapped CVC” is proposed, which likely reduces risks posed by resternotomy to cardiac surgery patients in the post-operative period.


Desai, S.S., Konanur, M., Foltz, G., Malaisrie, S.C. and Resnick, S. (2015) An Endovascular Approach to the Entrapped Central Venous Catheter After Cardiac Surgery. Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology. December 10th .

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