The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Central line

In medicine, a central (venous) line (or central venous catheter) is a catheter placed into a large vein.


Most commonly used veins are the jugular vein, the subclavian vein and the femoral vein .

Dependent on its use, the catheter is monoluminal, biluminal or triluminal, dependent on the actual number of tubes (1, 2 and 3 respectively).

The catheter is usually held in place by a suture and an occlusive plaster.

Indications and uses

Indications for the use of central lines include:

Central venous catheters usually remain in place for a longer period of time, especially when the reason for their use is longstanding (such as total parenteral nutrition in a chronically ill patient).


Potential complications include:

  • Pneumothorax (for subclavian lines) - this is why doctors routinely order a chest X-ray after insertion of a subclavian line.
  • Sepsis. All catheters can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream, but CVCs are known for occasionally causing Staphylococcus epidermidis sepsis. A patient with a central line, fever, and no obvious cause of the fever may have catheter-related sepsis. Generally, antibiotics are used, and occasionally the catheter will have to be removed.
  • Air embolism
  • Haemorrhage
Last updated: 05-14-2005 06:50:20