Background: Knowledge of the radiographic catheter tip position after central venous cannulation is normally not required for short-term catheter use. Detection of a possible iatrogenic pneumothorax may nevertheless justify routine post-procedure chest X-ray. Our aim was to design a clinical decision rule to select patients for radiographic evaluation after central venous cannulation.
Methods: A total of 2230 catheterizations performed using external jugular, internal jugular or subclavian venous approaches during a 4-year period were included consecutively. Information on patient data and corresponding procedures was recorded prospectively. A post-procedure chest X-ray was obtained after each cannulation.
Results: Thirteen cases (0.58%) of cannulation-associated pneumothorax were identified. The risk of pneumothorax after a technically difficult (1.8%) or subclavian (1.6%) cannulation was significantly higher than after cannulation not considered as difficult (0.37%) or performed using other routes (0.33%). Clinical signs of pneumothorax within 8 h of cannulation were found in all seven patients with pneumothorax requiring specific treatment. A new clinical decision rule for radiographic evaluation after central venous cannulation based on the results of the present study shows that 48% of the post-procedure chest X-rays performed in our patients were clinically redundant.
Conclusion: Clinical symptoms were reported in all patients with pneumothorax requiring specific treatment. Approximately half of the post-procedure chest X-ray controls could be avoided using the proposed clinical decision rule to select patients for radiographic evaluation after central venous cannulation. A large prospective multi-centre study should be carried out to further evaluate this decision rule.