Monday, July 16, 2012

Even Fewer Central Lines? - US Guided IVs

The Gist:  Patients in the ED often need venous access for fluid resuscitation or medication but may have poor peripheral venous access due to a myriad of reasons.  Ultrasound guided peripheral IV placement reduces the need for central venous catheters (and may also spare patients undue pain).

Doesn't sound that exciting, why should I care?  A patient presented with the clinical picture of sepsis - febrile, hypotensive, tachycardic, headache, visual changes and a possible source of cellulitis on his leg.  It was incredibly easy to order initiation of an early goal directed protocol; however, implementation was another story since we were unable to establish venous access.  The patient was morbidly obese and clearly intravascularly depleted, as evidenced by his very collapsed IVC on US.  The IV team eventually established access, but by that point, greater than one hour had elapsed.  The patient ended up doing well, but I think would have been better served had we begun fluid resuscitation, IV antibiotics, and the battery of lab tests more quickly.  The family and the patient were frustrated by the multiple unsuccessful attempts, and all interventions were dependent upon that access (no, he did not want an intraosseous line).    

The paper:  Au A, Rotte M, Grzybowski R, Ku B, Fields J.  Decrease in central venous catheter placement due to use of ultrasound guidance for peripheral intravenous catheters.  Am J of Emergency Medicine.  Online first 15 July 2012.


  • 100 patients enrolled after meeting the following criteria:  after "multiple" failed peripheral attempts, nurse and physician discussed need for IV access and, if necessary, the physician attempt at external jugular placement must have been unsuccessful.  Physicians only enrolled patients who they thought would need a central venous catheter if peripheral access were unsucessful.
  • Patients then underwent attempted cannulation with a 20g with single-operator US by a resident or attending

  • 88% of US guided peripheral IVs successful, of which, 11 eventually ended up with a CVC (1 with a central line, 10 with a PICC).
    • 1 patient with a central catheter had a line infection requiring antibiotics.
  • 12% of initial US guided peripheral IVs were unsuccessful.  7 of these underwent successful US guided IV in the ED and another 4 received a central line in the ED. 
This study builds upon other evidence that US guided IV access reduces time and number of attempts to successful cannulation (1,2, 3), although there has been a study demonstrating no difference (4).  This small study certainly has limitations:
  • Not randomized 
  • Some of the junction points in the study are subjective.  For example, patient or operator "fatigue" is variable.
  • US guided IV only performed by physicians, not nurses or technicians
  • Further attempts at standard IV access may have been abandoned earlier than usual due to availability of US (this is not a bad thing, especially from the patient perspective)
  • No standard number of attempts prior to use of US.
Where to from here?
  • Excessive attempts on pediatric patients seems brutal and studies demonstrate US works well for IV access in this population (6).  It's a study about ultrasound so, of course, I must mention something from the Ultrasound Podcast.  These guys are offering an incredible opportunity for US IV access education under the event "Not A Pin Cushion."  Check out their personal, touching story, which will inspire one to use US for difficult IVs.  There are many local programs and resources throughout the country that promote US guided IVs by physicians and nurses.  Here's a link to some FAQ regarding nurse placement of US guided peripheral lines from the "Stone's Side" of the Ultrasound Podcast.  Get on it. 
  • There are two things I never argue "for," but I don't think this case fits either one. 
    • Procedures that encourage providers to rely upon technology.  As someone with first hand disaster experiences following natural disasters, I'm fearful of dependence on things that require being "plugged in" (being without electricity for a month will instill this in one) and of becoming lazy.  I think that US is a great adjunct in the IV process for patients who fail initial attempts, thus could serve as an augmentation aid in difficult scenarios rather than foster dependence.
    • Fewer procedures (unless it's actually in the patient's best interest, which turns out to not be infrequently).  Some patients will need a central line, period, perhaps for pressors or due to failure of peripheral access.  However, the risks associated with central lines including infection, probably the most common, are not negligible.  When indicated, central lines are still the way to go, US guided IV just reduces the number of unnecessary central lines (by up to 85% in the abovementioned study).
If it's a family member or friend, I'm breaking out the US even earlier.

1.  Costantino TGParikh AKSatz WAFojtik JP.  Ultrasonography-guided peripheral intravenous access versus traditional approaches in patients with difficult intravenous access.Ann Emerg Med. 2005 Nov;46(5):456-61.
3.  Bauman M, Braude D, Crandall C.  Ultrasound-guidance vs. standard technique in difficult vascular access patients by ED technicians.  Am J Emerg med. 2009 Feb; 27(2)135-40.
4.  Stein JGeorge BRiver GHebig AMcDermott D.  Ultrasonographically guided peripheral intravenous cannulation in emergency department patients with difficult intravenous access: a randomized trial.   2009 Jul;54(1):33-40. 
5.  Dargin JMRebholz CMLowenstein RAMitchell PMFeldman JA.  Ultrasonography-guided peripheral intravenous catheter survival in ED patients with difficult accessAm J Emerg Med. 2010 Jan;28(1):1-7.
6.  Benkhadra M, Collignon M, Fournel I, Oeuvrard C, Rollin P, Perrin M, Volot F, Girard C.  Paediatr Anaesth. 2012 May;22(5):449-54.  Ultrasound guidance allows faster peripheral IV cannulation in children under 3 years of age with difficult venous access: a prospective randomized study.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point regarding a level of dependence on a potentially unreliable technology (namely, electricity). Like your post about the VAL, it does seem likely that, as user confidence/competence increases, assisted entry into the human will become more standard. For now, I'm still more likely to go to an EJ or even a "central peripheral" line (there's some great writing about this) than I am to spend the time and energy trying to place a painful deep AC by ultrasound.