The EKG method for positioning the tip of PICCs: results from two preliminary studies

Two preliminary studies were conducted to determine feasibility of using the electrocardiography (EKG) method to determine terminal tip location when inserting a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC). This method uses the guide-wire inside the catheter (or a column of saline contained in the catheter) as an intracavitary electrode. The EKG monitor is then connected to the intracavitary electrode. The reading on the EKG monitor reflects the closeness of the intracavitary electrode (the catheter tip) to the superior vena cava (SVC). The studies revealed that the EKG method was extremely precise; all tips placed using the EKG method and confirmed using x-ray were located in the superior vena cava. In conclusion, the EKG method has clear advantages in terms of accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and feasibility in conditions where x-ray control may be difficult or expensive to obtain. The method is quite simple, easy to learn and to teach, non-invasive, easy to reproduce, safe, and apt to minimize malpositions due to failure of entering the SVC.

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