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A Prospective Analysis of the Cephalic Vein Cutdown Approach for Chronic Indwelling Central Venous Access in 100 Consecutive Cancer Patients

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Background: Chronic indwelling central venous access devices (CICVAD) generally are placed by the percutaneous subclavian vein approach. The cephalic vein cutdown approach is used only infrequently. Although the technique has been well described, few prospective data are available on the cephalic vein cutdown approach.

Methods: From September 9, 1998, to July 20, 1999, the cephalic vein cutdown approach was attempted in 100 consecutive cancer patients taken to the operating room with the intention of placing CICVAD. Median patient age was 54.5 years (range 18–88), with 46 men and 54 women. Twenty-five patients had gastrointestinal malignancies, 17 had breast cancer, 15 had lymphoma, 13 had lung cancer, 12 had leukemia, 5 had multiple myeloma, and 13 had other malignancies. Patients were followed prospectively for immediate and long-term outcome.

Results: CICVAD placement via the cephalic vein cutdown approach was successful in 82 patients; the remaining 18 patients required conversion to a percutaneous subclavian vein approach. The reasons for inability to place CICVAD via cephalic vein cutdown approach were a cephalic vein that was too small (10 patients), an absent cephalic vein (7 patients), and inability to traverse the angle of insertion of the cephalic vein into the subclavian vein (1 patient). There were 56 subcutaneous ports and 26 tunneled catheters. Median operating time was 44 minutes (range, 26–79 minutes). No postoperative pneumothorax occurred. Median catheter duration was 198 days (range, 0–513 days). Long-term complications included catheter-related bacteremia (6%), site infection (2%), deep venous thrombosis (5%), port pocket hematoma (1%), and superior vena cava stricture (1%). Thirty-seven percent of patients have died since CICVAD placement. Twenty-nine percent of the CICVADs have been removed.

Conclusions: The cephalic vein cutdown approach was successful in 82% of patients. This approach is a safe and useful alternative to the percutaneous subclavian vein approach.

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Correspondence to Stephen P. Povoski MD.

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Povoski, S.P. A Prospective Analysis of the Cephalic Vein Cutdown Approach for Chronic Indwelling Central Venous Access in 100 Consecutive Cancer Patients. Ann Surg Oncol 7, 496–502 (2000).

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