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Placement of femoral venous catheters

Mark P Androes, MD
Alan C Heffner, MD
Section Editors
David L Cull, MD
Allan B Wolfson, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Central catheters provide dependable intravenous access and enable hemodynamic monitoring and blood sampling [1-4]. Although femoral vein cannulation is often considered less desirable due to higher complication rates, the femoral veins remain a reliable central venous access site, particularly under urgent or emergent circumstances [5,6]. The femoral site is increasingly used for the introduction of venous devices (eg, inferior vena cava, iliac venous stent).

Femoral venous cannulation and catheter placement will be reviewed here. General considerations for venous access and issues related to other access sites are discussed elsewhere. (See "Overview of central venous access" and "Complications of central venous catheters and their prevention" and "Placement of jugular venous catheters" and "Placement of subclavian venous catheters".)


The femoral veins are commonly viewed as an alternative access site for central venous access due to higher incidence of infection and catheter-related deep vein thrombosis compared with jugular or subclavian access (table 1). With contemporary skin preparation and proper routine catheter maintenance, infection rates appear to be comparable to other sites [7-9]. A meta-analysis suggests there is no longer a demonstrable difference in infection risk based upon catheter position [10]. However, short-term use does not completely eliminate the risk of deep vein thrombosis, which can occur within one day of cannulation [11,12]. (See 'Complications' below.)

The femoral veins are frequently preferred when other access sites are exhausted or there is increased risk for complications such as with emergency access, coagulopathy, and in the uncooperative patient [13]. The femoral veins are generally easier to cannulate and provide dependable access for less-experienced operators, or when there is concern for arterial injury at upper extremity sites because of altered local anatomy. Caution is needed when this approach is used in pulseless patients because chest compressions can produce femoral venous pulsations that may be misinterpreted as arterial. Catheter misplacement at the femoral site occurs in up to 30 percent of cardiac arrest resuscitations [14,15].

Femoral venous access is also used for the delivery of most inferior vena cava filters, and for lower extremity venous intervention. (See "Placement of vena cava filters and their complications".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 26, 2017.
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