Skin Necrosis Distal to a Rapid Infusion Catheter: Understanding Possible Complications of Large-bore Vascular Access Devices.
- Author(s): Chou, Wesley H
- Rinderknecht, Tanya N
- Mohabir, Paul K
- Phillips, Andrew W
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.3854
Rapid infusion catheters (RICs) allow expedient conversion of peripheral intravenous (PIV) catheters to peripheral sheaths; however, little is known about potential complications. In this case, a 64-year-old male polytrauma patient had a 20-gauge PIV catheter in the right cephalic vein upsized to an 8.5 French (Fr) RIC without incident during an arrest with pulseless electrical activity (PEA). On RIC post-placement day two, the patient developed edema and ecchymosis extending from the right dorsal mid-hand to the antecubital fossa, just distal to the RIC insertion point. Compartments were soft; the volar surface (including an arterial line location), fingers, and upper arm were normal. The RIC flushed and returned blood appropriately. Ultrasound revealed a noncompressible cephalic vein either related to the catheter or thrombosis, and imaging of the hand showed an ulnar styloid fracture and a minimally displaced triquetral fracture. The RIC was removed immediately. Over the next week, the areas of ecchymosis developed bullae and then sloughed, leaving open wounds extending into the dermis. The patient later expired from unrelated causes. The area and timing of the skin necrosis were highly suspicious for a catheter-associated complication, despite the presence of the arterial line and small distal fractures. The necrosis was potentially due to thrombosis of the superficial venous outflow system, leading to congestion and skin compromise, but we found no similar reports. Alternatively, the catheter may have ruptured the vein and caused a gravity-dependent ecchymosis, but the volar surface was not impacted, and the catheter was functioning properly. The RIC may also have encroached on the arterial space, decreasing flow, but we would have expected distal hand changes. The only published reports we could find on RIC complications involved a lost guide wire, fragmentation of a catheter during placement, and a case of compartment syndrome, raising the question of whether skin necrosis is truly a rare event or simply underreported with the RIC. Although the exact causal relationship remains unknown in our case, RICs should be removed as soon as possible after immediate stabilization.