UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: Use Ultrasound to confirm CVC placement

Keywords: Central venous catheter, ultrasound (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/18/2017 by Kami Windsor, MD (Updated: 6/15/2024)
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Save time by using bedside ultrasound to confirm above-the-diaphragm central venous catheter (CVC) placement rather than waiting for chest x-ray confirmation:

1. Perform rapid push of saline (it doesn’t have to be agitated) through CVC while cardiac probe is placed with right atrium in view. Immediate visualization of bubbles (or “atrial swirl”) essentially confirms correct placement.

2. Perform the usual search for ipsilateral lung-sliding and the waves-on-the-beach to rule out procedural pneumothorax.




It makes sense that it’s going to be faster for you to use that internal jugular/subclavian central venous catheter (CVC) you just placed if you confirm with bedside ultrasound instead of waiting for the radiology tech to get the chest x-ray. But what’s the data?

Using pooled data from of 15 studies with 1553 CVC placements, Ablordeppey et al. found that ultrasound had a sensitivity of 86% and 98% specificity for detecting catheter malposition, with a positive likelihood ratio (LR) of 31.1 and a negative LR of 0.25. There was an almost 100% sensitivity and specificity for pneumothorax detection, and reduced confirmation time by 58 minutes.These findings are generally consistent across the board for the other studies out there.


1.     Ablordeppey EA, Drewry AM, Beyer AB, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of central venous catheter confirmation by bedside ultrasound versus chest radiography in critically ill patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Care Med. 2017; 45(4): 715-24.

2.     Gekle R, Dubensky L, Haddad S, et al. Saline flush test: Can bedside sonography replace conventional radiography for confirmation of above-the-diaphragm central venous catheter placement? J Ultrasound Med. 2015;34(7):1295-9.

3.     Weekes AJ, Johnson DA, Keller SM. Central vascular catheter placement evaluation using saline flush and bedside echocardiography. Acad Emerg Med. 2014; 21:65-72.