Right atrial catheters in children with cancer: a decade of experience in the use of tunnelled, exteriorized devices at a single institution.
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In the period 1980-1988, data were collected (prospectively from 1985) on the clinical utilization of exteriorized, tunnelled, right atrial catheters in children with cancer undergoing treatment at a single institution. A total of 231 devices were placed in 180 patients. Individual catheters were in place for a median of 314 days, with a total experience of more than 83,000 days. This form of long-term venous access was used for the administration of antineoplastic agents and other drugs, blood products (especially platelet concentrates and packed red blood cells), parenteral nutrition and infusion of other fluids, obtaining samples of venous blood, and giving intravenous contrast media and radiolabeled substances for radiological investigations. Almost 80% of catheters were removed electively (on completion of scheduled therapy or at death), with the remainder requiring removal in the management of infection or device displacement. Infections were manifest in two-thirds of the children, most commonly (60%) at the catheter exit site on the anterior chest wall. "Clinically significant" infection occurred with a frequency of 2.1 episodes per 1,000 patient days, with Staphylococcal species predominating except for the circumstances of catheter colonization in which Gram-negative, waterborne organisms were most in evidence. Empirical, intravenous, combined antibiotic therapy was effective in approximately 90% of "clinically significant" episodes. Mechanical complications (traveling, leakage, or catheter occlusion) occurred less frequently and were managed by repairing or replacing the device, or clearing the block. Indwelling catheters, of the Broviac or Hickman types, offer major advantages with acceptable morbidity in the management of children with malignant diseases.
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