European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 165, Issue 4, pp 264–266 | Cite as

The carina as a landmark for central venous catheter placement in small children

  • Knut AlbrechtEmail author
  • Dirk Breitmeier
  • Bernhard Panning
  • Hans Dieter Tröger
  • Heike Nave
Original Paper


Central venous devices are frequently used in children to monitor haemodynamic status, to administer fluids, medication, parenteral nutrition and for blood sampling. Life-threatening complications that may occur on insertion if the central venous catheter (CVC) is misplaced, are cardiac tamponade or a hydro-/haemopericardium. There is still controversy over the optimum catheter tip position in paediatric patients, whether to place the CVC tip in the superior vena cava, outside the pericardial boundaries or in the right atrium. However, the exact location of the pericardium cannot be seen on a normal chest x-ray. The carina is a radiographic marker for CVC placement, suggested on the basis of studies with conserved and fresh adult cadavers. In order to confirm this landmark for children, the present study was performed with 31 fresh cadavers of small children (mean age 12.5±3.4 months) that had been selected for autopsy in the Institute of Legal Medicine. Results clearly demonstrate that the carina was 0.5±0.04 cm above the pericardial duplication as it transversed the SVC. In no infant cadaver was the carina inferior to the pericardium. Thus, the results are analogous to those in adults and confirm that the carina is a simple anatomical-radiological landmark, superior to the pericardial reflection, that can be used to identify the placement of CVC even in newborn and small children.


Central venous catheter Children Cardiac tamponade Parenteral nutrition Pericardium 



Central venous catheter


Superior vena cava


Sudden infant death syndrome


Body length



We are very grateful to Prof. Dr. R. Pabst (Head of the Department of Functional and Applied Anatomy, Hannover Medical School) for critical comments and helpful discussions. The authors would like to thank Ms. Sheila Fryk for correcting the English.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Knut Albrecht
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dirk Breitmeier
    • 1
  • Bernhard Panning
    • 2
  • Hans Dieter Tröger
    • 1
  • Heike Nave
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Legal MedicineHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Department of AnaesthesiologyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Department of Functional and Applied AnatomyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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