Salvage insertion of tunneled central venous catheters in the internal jugular vein after accidental catheter removal

A. Bellasi, D. Brancaccio, M. Maggioni, G. Chiarelli, Maurizio Gallieni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Tunneled catheters are widely used for intermediate to long-term hemodialysis (HD) access, but are prone to several complications that can require catheter replacement. Replacing malfunctioning catheters with a new line, placed in a different access site, can lead to problems with multiple vein occlusions. This has led many nephrologists to continue using the same vein as long as possible by guidewire catheter exchanges, to preserve other veins for future use. We describe a guidewire exchange technique for the Ash-Split catheter in the internal jugular vein. Methods: In three patients, the exchange was performed because of partial catheter removal, as evidenced by the outward dislocation of the Dacron cuff. In these patients, the guidewire was inserted through the catheter. In two additional patients, the catheter had been completely removed by accident: the replacement of the dislodged tunneled venous catheters was attempted 5 hr and 1 day after accidental removal. In these patients, the guidewire was inserted through the previous tunnel. After guidewire placement, a skin incision was made in the supraclavicular region. The metal guidewire was easily located inside the fibrous structure that had previously surrounded the catheter. The guidewire was then extracted from the subcutaneous tunnel and used to insert a new catheter safely and easily after creating a new tunnel. Patients were routinely given antibiotic prophylaxis (1 g of cefazolin) immediately before the procedure. A strict aseptic technique was used, including several sterile glove changes. Results: No infections developed following this procedure, which has the potential for bacterial contamination. All procedures were successful. Only in one patient did we have to convert to a different catheter: it was not possible to replace the old Ash-Split catheter with the same dual-lumen catheter because of difficulties in inserting the peel away introducer-catheter complex. In this patient, rather than forcing it with larger dilators or trying to disrupt the fibrin sheath with balloon dilatation, a single lumen Tesio catheter was successfully placed. In both patients who completely lost the previous catheter, the guidewire was readily reinserted through the subcutaneous tunnel into the vein. Catheter function was excellent in all patients, with a test blood flow rate on the 1st catheter use >350 ml/min. Conclusions: We described a new method for catheter exchange, which allows the easy insertion of a new catheter and the creation of a new and safer subcutaneous tunnel. In addition, we demonstrated that in cases of complete catheter removal, it is possible to reinsert a catheter in the same vein through a guidewire, even when reinsertion was attempted up to 1 day later.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Vascular Access
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004


  • Ash-split
  • Catheter
  • Dialysis
  • Exchange technique
  • Internal jugular vein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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