Bedside ultrasound to detect central venous catheter misplacement and associated iatrogenic complications: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Jasper M. Smit, Reinder Raadsen, Michiel J. Blans, Manfred Petjak, Peter M. Van de Ven, Pieter R. Tuinman

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Background: Insertion of a central venous catheter (CVC) is common practice in critical care medicine. Complications arising from CVC placement are mostly due to a pneumothorax or malposition. Correct position is currently confirmed by chest x-ray, while ultrasonography might be a more suitable option. We performed a meta-analysis of the available studies with the primary aim of synthesizing information regarding detection of CVC-related complications and misplacement using ultrasound (US). Methods: This is a systematic review and meta-analysis registered at PROSPERO (CRD42016050698). PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched. Articles which reported the diagnostic accuracy of US in detecting the position of CVCs and the mechanical complications associated with insertion were included. Primary outcomes were specificity and sensitivity of US. Secondary outcomes included prevalence of malposition and pneumothorax, feasibility of US examination, and time to perform and interpret both US and chest x-ray. A qualitative assessment was performed using the QUADAS-2 tool. Results: We included 25 studies with a total of 2548 patients and 2602 CVC placements. Analysis yielded a pooled specificity of 98.9 (95% confidence interval (CI): 97.8-99.5) and sensitivity of 68.2 (95% CI: 54.4-79.4). US examination was feasible in 96.8% of the cases. The prevalence of CVC malposition and pneumothorax was 6.8% and 1.1%, respectively. The mean time for US performance was 2.83 min (95% CI: 2.77-2.89 min) min, while chest x-ray performance took 34.7 min (95% CI: 32.6-36.7 min). US was feasible in 97%. Further analyses were performed by defining subgroups based on the different utilized US protocols and on intra-atrial and extra-atrial misplacement. Vascular US combined with transthoracic echocardiography was most accurate. Conclusions: US is an accurate and feasible diagnostic modality to detect CVC malposition and iatrogenic pneumothorax. Advantages of US over chest x-ray are that it can be performed faster and does not subject patients to radiation. Vascular US combined with transthoracic echocardiography is advised. However, the results need to be interpreted with caution since included studies were often underpowered and had methodological limitations. A large multicenter study investigating optimal US protocol, among other things, is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2018


  • CVC malposition
  • Central venous catheter
  • Chest x-ray
  • Iatrogenic complications
  • Meta-analysis
  • Pneumothorax
  • Ultrasound

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