Tunneled Central Venous Catheters in Young Children: Complication Profile Can Guide Choice of Line

Published:November 07, 2022DOI:



      Placement of tunneled central venous catheters (CVCs) is one of the most common procedures performed in children and can either be externally accessed or internally accessed. However, there are no data-driven guidelines on when to offer each line type, particularly in small children aged less than 5 y. Our hypothesis is that the two types of lines have different complication profiles and indications that can guide providers and families in this decision.


      A single-institution retrospective chart review was performed for patients aged less than 5 y who underwent initial placement of a tunneled CVC between 2014 and 2016. Patients were included if they underwent initial tunneled CVC placement within the study period and were excluded if line was emergently placed for hemodynamic instability or was a replacement catheter. Data were compared by type of CVC, weight more than or less than 10 kg, indications for CVC, complications, and duration of catheter.


      We identified 148 patients who underwent initial tunneled CVC during study period. Seventy one patients (48%) received an externally accessed type and 77 (52%) received internally accessed type. The indications for line placement were TPN in 24 patients (16%), chemotherapy in 67 (45%), vascular access in 45 (31%), and nonchemotherapy infusions in 12 (8%). Externally accessed catheters had higher late complications (> 30 d) in patients > 10 kg compared to internally accessed catheters (63% versus 21%, P < 0.01).


      While some diagnoses determine line type, there are other indications that may qualify patients for either line. Our data demonstrate a lower long-term complication rate with internally accessed catheters and suggest they be considered over externally accessed lines in appropriate patients.


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