Background: The axillary vein is a commonly used extrathoracic access site for cardiac rhythm device lead implantation. We sought to describe variation in axillary vein location and identify predictors of a more cranial or caudal radiographic location to facilitate blind venous cannulation.
Methods: This was a single-center, retrospective study of patients undergoing lead implantation between 2006 and 2010. The cranial-caudal location of the axillary vein lateral and medial to the rib cage border was determined by reviewing peripheral contrast venograms. Multivariate linear regression was performed.
Results: Of 155 patients, the majority were men (62%) and White (53%). The most frequent position of the lateral and medial axillary vein was over the third rib (40%) and top of the third rib (15%), respectively. In multivariate analysis, whites had a more caudal location of both the lateral (0.56 rib spaces lower, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.22–0.91, P = 0.002) and medial axillary vein (0.50 rib spaces lower, 95% CI 0.85–0.91, P = 0.019). Other independent predictors included an approximate 3–4% higher rib space location for every digit increase in body mass index (BMI) (P = 0.049 for the lateral location and P = 0.016 for the medial location) and an approximate half rib space higher location for males (P = 0.015 for the lateral location and P = 0.013 for the medial location).
Conclusions: The most common radiographic position of the axillary vein was over the third rib. Whites have a more caudal axillary vein location while men and patients with higher BMI have a more cranial position of the axillary vein. (PACE 2011; 34:1585–1592)