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Overview of central venous access

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


Central venous access is a commonly performed procedure with approximately 8 percent of hospitalized patients requiring central venous access during the course of their hospital stay. More than five million central venous catheters are inserted in the United States each year [1,2].

Central venous access is also needed to place pulmonary artery catheters, plasmapheresis and hemodialysis catheters, as well as to place inferior vena cava filters, introduce wires for transvenous pacing and defibrillator devices, and for venous interventions. The central venous access site and manner in which access is achieved depend upon the indication for placement, patient anatomy, and other patient-related factors.

The indications for central venous access, types of central catheters, catheter selection, site selection, and general issues of preparation and placement will be reviewed here. The role of catheters and devices for monitoring cardiac parameters, or administering chemotherapy or parenteral nutrition is discussed in separate topic reviews.

The placement of jugular, subclavian, and femoral catheters; issues specific to these anatomic sites; routine maintenance and care of catheters and port devices; and complications of central venous catheters and related devices are discussed elsewhere. (See "Placement of jugular venous catheters" and "Placement of subclavian venous catheters" and "Placement of femoral venous catheters".)


Common indications for the placement of central catheters include [3-5]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 24, 2017.
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