Skip main navigation

Ultrasound-assisted cannulation of the internal jugular vein. A prospective comparison to the external landmark-guided technique.

Originally published 1993;87:1557–1562


    Central venous access is an essential part of patient management in many clinical settings and is usually achieved with a blinded, external landmark-guided technique. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether an ultrasound technique can improve on the traditional method.


    We prospectively evaluated an ultrasound-guided method in 302 patients undergoing internal jugular venous cannulation and compared the results with 302 patients in whom an external landmark-guided technique was used. Ultrasound was used exclusively in an additional 626 patients. Cannulation of the internal jugular vein was achieved in all patients (100%) using ultrasound and in 266 patients (88.1%) using the landmark-guided technique (p < 0.001). The vein was entered on the first attempt in 78% of patients using ultrasound and in 38% using the landmark technique (p < 0.001). Average access time (skin to vein) was 9.8 seconds (2-68 seconds) by the ultrasound approach and 44.5 seconds (2-1,000 seconds) by the landmark approach (p < 0.001). Using ultrasound, puncture of the carotid artery occurred in 1.7% of patients, brachial plexus irritation in 0.4%, and hematoma in 0.2%. In the external landmark group, puncture of the carotid artery occurred in 8.3% of patients (p < 0.001), brachial plexus irritation in 1.7% (p < 0.001), and hematoma in 3.3% (p < 0.001).


    Ultrasound-guided cannulation of the internal jugular vein significantly improves success rate, decreases access time, and reduces complication rate. These results suggest that this technique may be preferred in complicated cases or when access problems are anticipated.


    eLetters should relate to an article recently published in the journal and are not a forum for providing unpublished data. Comments are reviewed for appropriate use of tone and language. Comments are not peer-reviewed. Acceptable comments are posted to the journal website only. Comments are not published in an issue and are not indexed in PubMed. Comments should be no longer than 500 words and will only be posted online. References are limited to 10. Authors of the article cited in the comment will be invited to reply, as appropriate.

    Comments and feedback on AHA/ASA Scientific Statements and Guidelines should be directed to the AHA/ASA Manuscript Oversight Committee via its Correspondence page.