Background: This case report describes a subclavian vein cannulation that inadvertently led to an arterial puncture with the catheter tip radiologically seen at the level of the aorta. This case emphasizes the importance of postprocedural imaging and the disadvantages of not using ultrasound guidance in central venous catheterization.
Case presentation: A 24-year-old Caucasian man with diabetes mellitus type 1 presented himself to the emergency department due to abdominal pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The patient’s vital signs revealed blood pressure of 84/53 mmHg, heart rate of 103 beats per minute, respiratory rate of 18 breaths per minute, and temperature of 98.2 °F (36.7 °C). On physical examination, he was found to have dry oral mucosa with poor skin turgor, with diagnostics showing that he was in diabetic ketoacidosis after running out of insulin for 2 days. The patient was transferred to the intensive care unit to receive a higher level of care. Unfortunately, due to difficulty of peripheral line placement, only a gauge-22 cannula was secured at the left dorsum of the hand. Efforts to replace the current peripheral line were unsuccessful, and a decision to perform a central vein cannulation via the internal jugular vein was made. This was futile as well due to volume depletion, prompting a subsequent right subclavian vein route attempt. The procedure inadvertently punctured the arterial circulation, leading to the catheter tip being visible at the level of the aorta on postprocedure X-ray. The subclavian line was immediately removed with no adverse consequences for the patient. A right femoral line was successfully placed, and continuous management of the diabetic ketoacidosis ensued until normalization of the high anion gap was achieved.
Conclusion: Utilization of real-time ultrasound guidance via the subclavian approach could have allowed for direct visualization of needle insertion to the anatomical structures, guidewire location, and directionality, all of which can lead to decreased complications and improved cannulation success compared with the landmark technique. A leftward direction of the catheter seen on postprocedural X-rays should raise high suspicion of inadvertent catheter placement and immediate correction. This complication should have been prevented if ultrasound guidance had been used.Reference:
Alon MH. Inadvertent arterial puncture involving the subclavian artery and the aorta during central venous catheterization: a case report. J Med Case Rep. 2021 May 28;15(1):303. doi: 10.1186/s13256-021-02871-w. PMID: 34044882; PMCID: PMC8161931.