Chest x-rays are not needed after imaging-guided placement of tunneled catheters.
Catheter position should be confirmed by a validated method in the operating room.
Postoperative imaging should be reserved only upon clinical need or line malfunction.
Background: A postoperative chest x-ray (CXR) remains part of some hospital protocols following tunneled hemodialysis catheter placement despite the use of operative imaging-guided techniques. The aim is to assess the usefulness of this practice and its impact on clinical outcomes and resource use.
Methods: A review of medical records and postoperative CXR was done for 78 adult patients who had tunneled hemodialysis catheters placed in the operating room under fluoroscopy guidance. Catheters were inserted by ultrasound-guided puncture (51.3%) or exchanged from an existing catheter over a guide wire (48.7%). The postoperative CXRs were also examined by an independent reviewer to assess the catheter tip position and the need for repositioning to mimic a real-life postoperative setting. Procedural, nursing, and billing records were also reviewed.
Results: No patients had a pneumothorax or major complications. On postoperative CXRs, 29 (37.2%) patients had the catheter tips in the right atrium, 23 (29.5%) in the cavoatrial junction, 25 (23.1%) in the superior vena cava, and 1 (1.3%) in the brachiocephalic vein. The independent reviewer found the catheter tips in acceptable anatomical positions in 75 of 78 patients. Only 3 (3.9%) patients had catheter malfunctions during dialysis and exchanged their catheters (2 had high catheters in the superior vena cava and brachiocephalic vein, 1 had a kinked catheter). Postoperative CXRs also caused delays in patient discharge from postanesthesia care units and significant increases in medical expenses (around $199 per patient).
Conclusion: Routine CXR after tunneled hemodialysis central venous catheter insertion is unnecessary and does not add to the procedure's safety or to the patient's outcome.