Advertisment Polium-B
Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine
An open access publication of ISCCM™ 
Users online: 523 
     Home | Login 
  About Current Issue Archive Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Etcetera Contact  
 »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
 »Related articles
 »  Article in PDF (310 KB)
 »  Citation Manager
 »  Access Statistics
 »  Reader Comments
 »  Email Alert *
 »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free) 

  IN THIS Article
 »  Abstract
 »  Introduction
 »  Case Report
 »  Discussion
 »  References

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded327    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 2    

Recommend this journal


 Table of Contents    
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 202-204

Fatal airway obstruction following arterial trauma during internal jugular venous cannulation

Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, India

Date of Web Publication22-Jan-2011

Correspondence Address:
Aparna Williams
Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, Punjab - 141 008
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-5229.76085

Rights and Permissions

 » Abstract 

Central venous cannulations are commonly performed in the intensive care unit. However, these may be associated with severe mechanical or bleeding complications. Here, we describe a patient who died following severe and rapid airway obstruction secondary to an arterial trauma during internal jugular vein cannulation. This case report highlights the importance of prompt recognition of arterial trauma so that it can be repaired surgically instead of sheath removal. The prompt diagnosis of an impending airway obstruction and obtaining early airway access cannot be overemphasized. Finally, we discuss the risk factors associated with this complication and what we could have possibly done to prevent this outcome.

Keywords: Airway obstruction, arterial trauma, internal jugular venous cannulation

How to cite this article:
Williams A, Mathai AS, Bhatia G, Abraham J. Fatal airway obstruction following arterial trauma during internal jugular venous cannulation. Indian J Crit Care Med 2010;14:202-4

How to cite this URL:
Williams A, Mathai AS, Bhatia G, Abraham J. Fatal airway obstruction following arterial trauma during internal jugular venous cannulation. Indian J Crit Care Med [serial online] 2010 [cited 2018 Jun 20];14:202-4. Available from:

 » Introduction Top

Arterial punctures can occur in 6-25% of internal jugular venous cannulations. [1] However, this complication leading on to fatal airway obstruction is extremely rare and only one case of the same has been reported in literature. [2]

 » Case Report Top

A 65-year-old obese lady [body mass index (BMI) 35 kg/m 2 ], with a diagnosis of pyelonephritis, requiring intravenous antibiotics, was shifted to the intensive care unit for central venous cannula (CVC) insertion as her peripheral venous access was poor. Earlier investigations had revealed mildly deranged bleeding parameters as follows: prothrombin time of 13 with a control of 12, activated partial thromboplastin time of 41.4 with a control of 25, platelet count of 200,000/mm 3 and a hematocrit of 27/mm 3 .

After transfusion of four units of fresh frozen plasma, a landmark-based right internal jugular venous (IJV) cannulation was attempted. Using the high central approach, the IJV was punctured and free-flowing dark "venous" blood was aspirated. After guidewire insertion, the vein was dilated. However, the 7-Fr triple lumen catheter could not be negotiated, and hence, the cannula over guidewire was removed. External pressure was applied over the puncture site for 5 minutes and, before the next attempt could be made, the patient was noticed to be agitated. The drape covering her head was removed and the patient was found to be diaphoretic, pale and tachypneic. Immediately, all the drapes were removed and a massive anterior neck swelling was evident, associated with breathing difficulty. Her pulses were feeble and heart rate was 145/minute and oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry was 80-85%. She was initiated on oxygen at fiO 2 60%. In view of an impending airway obstruction, an immediate attempt was made to intubate the trachea, which was unsuccessful due to the severely distorted internal anatomy and secretions in the airway. The ENT surgeon was notified for an urgent tracheostomy. Intravenous crystalloids and colloids were rapidly transfused. Meanwhile, the anterior neck swelling was increasing rapidly in size and the patient's heart rate was 160/minute. The ENT surgeons present began doing an emergency tracheostomy while bag and mask ventilation was carried out. A second attempt at laryngoscopy using the BURP (backwards, upwards and right posterior) maneuver barely revealed the posterior part of the glottic opening, and a size-6.5 endotracheal tube was successfully slipped in, just as the skin and subcutaneous tissues were being opened. A large hematoma was found extending over the entire anterior surface of the neck. The patient developed bradycardia with a heart rate of 30/minute which quickly deteriorated to asystole. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was immediately instituted but despite 40 minutes of advanced cardiac life support therapy, the patient could not be resuscitated. The time from initial vascular puncture to cardiac arrest was less than 20 minutes.

 » Discussion Top

A review of literature suggests that although arterial trauma is not uncommon during central venous cannulations (CVCs), [1] a fatal outcome secondary to severe and rapid airway obstruction such as this is very rare. Our patient had severe airway obstruction associated with hemodynamic instability, and the presence of a large hematoma over the anterior surface of the neck. Hence, the most likely cause of this complication would have been trauma following dilator injury to the carotid artery, resulting in rapid blood loss and formation of hematoma which caused fatal airway obstruction.

Carotid artery trauma has been reported in 6-25% of patients, following landmark-based internal jugular venous cannulations. [1] The other, rarer arterial punctures include those involving the subclavian artery (0.1-1% of IJV cannulations) [1] and the aorta, which is associated with a 90% death rate. [3] Despite the advent of ultrasound guided vascular cannulation, which has reduced the incidence of complications drastically, [4] many centers in our country still rely on the landmark-based technique for cannulation, which has a success rate of 75-99%. [1] The factors associated with bleeding and mechanical complications during CVC insertions include unsafe manipulation, kinking of the guide wire, operator inexperience, increased needle passes, severe dehydration, morbid obesity, short neck, emergency procedures and coagulopathy. [5] Our patient had some of these risk factors, viz., obesity, short neck and coagulopathy.

The key factor that determines survival is prompt recognition of the arterial trauma. We failed to recognize the arterial trauma and pulled out the dilator directly, a practice that needs to change and henceforth be strongly discouraged, especially if the artery has been dilated or the cannula inserted. The removal of the CVC and application of pressure over the arterial puncture site is reportedly associated with a significant risk of hematoma, airway obstruction, stroke, and even death. [6] Hence, if an arterial trauma is recognized during CVC insertion, the recommended approach is to leave the sheath in place and refer the patient for early and safe surgical arterial repair. [7]

In previous case reports of severe airway obstruction following inadvertent arterial trauma during IJV cannulation, obtaining timely airway access was the most important factor which determined survival. [2],[8],[9] In our patient, there was a delay in recognizing the early signs of airway compromise due to the drapes covering the patient. Also, the cessation of external bleeding when pressure was applied led us to falsely believe that the bleeding was controlled. By the time the airway obstruction was recognized, the hematoma had increased significantly and visualization of the larynx was impossible. Thus, there was a delay by nearly 10-12 minutes before the airway was finally secured.

In conclusion, arterial trauma during IJV cannulation can lead to catastrophic consequences if not rapidly detected. The factors which might have helped us avoid this unfortunate outcome are the use of transparent drapes through which we could have noted the developing hematoma earlier, better airway preparedness, and possibly, the use of ultrasound guidance for cannulation, more so with the risk factors involved in our patient. Also, if the arterial trauma had been recognized, especially after dilatation, the correct approach would have been to leave the dilator in place while referring the patient for emergent and safe surgical repair.

 » References Top

1.Oliver WC Jr, Nuttall GA, Beynen FM, Raimundo HS, Abenstein JP, Arnold JJ. The incidence of artery puncture with central venous cannulation using a modified technique for detection and prevention of arterial cannulation. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth 1997;11:851-5.   Back to cited text no. 1
2.Lau H, Lin T, Lee Y, Liou W, Tsai S. Delayed airway obstruction secondary to inadvertent arterial puncture during percutaneous central venous cannulation. Acta Anaesthesiol Sin 2001;39:93-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Carr M, Jagannath A. Hemopericardium resulting from attempted internal jugular vein catheterization: A case report and review of complications of central venous catheterization. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol 1986;9:214-8.   Back to cited text no. 3
4.Randolph AG, Cook DJ, Gonzales CA, Pribble CG. Ultrasound guidance for placement of central venous catheters: A meta-analysis of the literature. Crit Care Med 1996;24:2053-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Sznajder JI, Zveibil FR, Bitterman H, Weiner P, Bursztein S. Central vein catheterization: Failure and complication rates by three percutaneus approaches. Arch Intern Med 1986;146:259-61.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Reuber M, Dunkley LA, Turton EP, Bell MD, Bamford JM. Stroke after internal jugular venous cannulation. Acta Neurol Scand 2002;105:235-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Guilbert MC, Elkouri S, Bracco D, Corriveau MM, Beaudoin N, Dubois M J, et al. Arterial trauma during central venous catheter insertion: Case series, review and proposed algorithm. J Vasc Surg 2008;48:918-25.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Kua JS, Tan IK. Airway obstruction following internal jugular vein cannulation. Anaesthesia 1997;52:776-80.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Jeganath V, McElwaine JG, Stewart P. Ruptured Superior thyroid artery from central vein cannulation: Treatment by coil embolization. Br J Anaesth 2001;87:302-5.  Back to cited text no. 9

This article has been cited by
1 Fatal airway obstruction following arterial trauma during internal jugular venous cannulation - Lessons to be learned
Chandershekar, P.
Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine. 2011; 15(3): 197-198
2 Hypoperfusion in Severely Injured Trauma Patients is Associated With Reduced Coagulation Factor Activity
Jan O. Jansen,Sandro Scarpelini,Ruxandra Pinto,Homer C. Tien,Jeannie Callum,Sandro B. Rizoli
The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. 2011; 71: S435
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 7th April '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow