BACKGROUND: Transthoracic intracardiac catheters are frequently inserted in children during congenital heart surgery for monitoring and vascular access purposes. Their use entails a small potential risk.
AIM: We aimed to evaluate both catheter-associated morbidities related to maintenance and removal of transthoracic intracardiac catheters in pediatric cardiac patients, and predictors for catheter-associated adverse events.
METHODS: Single-center retrospective cohort study of prospectively collected data of children aged 0-14 years receiving a transthoracic intracardiac catheter inserted in the operating room during 7 consecutive years at the University Children's Hospital Zurich.
RESULTS: A total of 115 transthoracic intracardiac catheters were placed in 112 patients: 45 right atrial, 68 left atrial, and 2 pulmonary artery catheters. Five catheters (4.3%) had to be removed due to catheter-associated adverse events (infection, 2; nonfunction, 2; and leakage 1). After catheter removal, 19% of patients suffered adverse events, these were minor in 16 (14%) and serious in 6 (5.1%) (symptomatic bleeding in four (3.5%) patients, pericardial tamponade leading to death in one (0.8%), and tension pneumothorax in one (0.8%)). Catheter position in the right atrium and the need for platelet transfusion prior to removal were risk factors for adverse events.
CONCLUSIONS: Transthoracic intracardiac catheters are useful in the management of specific patient groups with complex congenital heart defects. Adverse events do occur; most of them do not require intervention. The insertion technique plays an important role in avoiding adverse events. Strict guidelines for the use and removal of transthoracic intracardiac catheters are required. Low platelet count should delay catheter removal. The wealth of information and therapeutic options offered by these catheters appear to outweigh the associated potential adverse events in this specific patient group.