A 1-year experience of percutaneous subclavian catheterization in outpatients with cancer was reviewed to document reliability, safety, and cost. There were 763 catheter insertions attempted with prospective documentation of complications in 664 consecutive patients. Catheter insertion was successful in 722 attempts (95%). There were only 13 pneumothoraces (2%). Thiry catheters required repositioning (4%). The average catheter duration was 191 days (range: 0 to 892 days). Fifty-six catheters (8%) were removed because of suspected infection. Documented catheter sepsis occurred in 21 patients (3%); catheter site infection occurred in 8 patients (1%). Thus, only 0.22 infections per catheter year occurred during this 382 catheter-year experience. The estimated cost of catheter insertion was $562, which is one-third the estimated cost for tunneled catheters ($1,403) and for reservoir devices ($1,738). In our experience, percutaneous subclavian catheterization is a reliable, cost-effective method compared with tunneled or reservoir devices, with an equivalent incidence of catheter-related infections. The cornerstone of our success with this program is a staff dedicated to catheter care and intensive patient education. In centers where a large number of patients require central venous access, percutaneous catheterization should be the technique of choice.
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