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Prospective comparison of ultrasound and CXR for confirmation of central vascular catheter placement
  1. Anthony J Weekes1,
  2. Stephen M Keller1,
  3. Bradley Efune2,
  4. Sama Ghali3,
  5. Michael Runyon1
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Emergency Medicine, Good Shepherd Medical Center, Longview, Texas, USA
  3. 3Department of Emergency Medicine, Chandler Medical Center, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anthony J Weekes, Department of Emergency Medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, 1000 Blythe Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28230, USA; anthony.weekes1{at}


Objective To prospectively compare ultrasound (US) versus CXR for confirmation of central vascular catheter (CVC) placement. Secondary objective was to determine the incidence of pneumothorax (PTX) and compare US with CXR completion times.

Methods Investigators performed the US saline flush echo test, and evaluated each anterior hemithorax for pleural sliding with US after subclavian or internal jugular CVC placement.

Measurements and main results 151 total (135 in the emergency department, 16 in the intensive care unit) patients after CVC placement, mean age 62.1±15.6 years and 83 (55%) female patients. The rapid atrial swirl sign ( RASS) was ultrasound finding of an immediate appearance of turbulence entering the right atrium via superior vena cava after a rapid saline flush of the distal CVC port. RASS was considered ‘negative’ for CVC malposition. US identified all correct CVC placements. Four suboptimal CVC tip placements were detected by CXR. US identified three of these misplacements (McNemar exact p value >0.99). There were no cases of PTX or abnormal pleural sliding by either CXR or US. Median times for US and CXR completion were 1.1 (IQR 0.7) minutes and 20 (IQR: 30) minutes, respectively, median difference 23.8 (95% CI 19.6 to 29.3) minutes, p<0.0001.

Conclusions PTX and CVC tip malposition were rare after US-guided CVC placement. There was no significant difference between saline flush echo and CXR for the identification of catheter tip malposition. Benefits of US assessment for complications include reduced radiation exposure and time delays associated with CXR.

  • ultrasound
  • imaging, ultrasound
  • cost effectiveness
  • intensive care

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