Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 5, Issue 3, 2004

Volume 5 Issue 3 2004


A Modified Approach to Supraclavicular Subclavian Vein Catheter Placement: The Pocket Approach

BACKGROUND: Central venous access is often necessary for the administration of fluids, blood products, and medications. Several approaches to supraclavicular subclavian venous access have been described. This study examines the effectiveness of central venous catheter placement utilizing an alternative set of anatomic landmarks for supraclavicular subclavian vein access. METHODS: This was a two phase study. The first portion involved subclavian vein cannulation using a supraclavicular approach in 28 cadavers. The specific set of anatomic landmarks for the supraclavicular approach, termed the “pocket approach,” is described. Cadavers were subsequently dissected to verify appropriate line placement. The second portion was a chart review of Emergency Department (ED) patients who underwent attempted subclavian vein catheter placement utilizing the pocket approach. Charts were extracted following education of the ED faculty and resident staff to determine: 1) Success of subclavian line placement, 2) The incidence of pneumothorax, and 3) The use of supraclavicular subclavian access in the trauma setting, during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and in patients who had cervical collars. RESULTS: In 28 cadavers, the success rate of the pocket approach was 100% (34/34; 95% CI 90% to 100%). Chart review of the 68 patients revealed a success rate of 90% (61/68; CI 80% to 96%). No pneumothoraces were recorded (0/68; CI 0% to 5%). The pocket approach was used successfully in 11 patients with cervical collars, (100%, CI 72% to 100%) and in 15 of 16 patients undergoing CPR (94%, CI 70% to 100%). In four fresh cadavers, the average distance from the posterior subclavian vein to the subclavian artery was 0.40cm, and the dome of the pleura was 1.75cm posterior to the vein. CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that the supraclavicular pocket approach to subclavian vein cannulation is a useful and safe method of adult central venous catheterization, with complication and success rates comparable to more common approaches. The anatomic advantage of a great vein that is closer to the skin and farther from the pleural dome makes this an approach worthy of further investigation.