Imaging evaluation of catheter integrity prevent potentially fatal complication of pinch-off syndrome: illustration of two cases

Hanzhou Li, Serena Jen, Jayanth H. Keshavamurthy, Gregory H. Bowers, Hoang Anh Vo, Eran Rotem


Peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC) and implantable venous access devices with an attached catheter such as a Port-A-Cath are common types of central venous catheters (CVC) that are used to deliver chemotherapy and other medications. Subclavian vein (SVC) access for CVC, although widely practiced, presents risks for catheter complications such as the compression of the catheter in the space anterior to the first rib and posterior to the clavicle (1). This compression is rated on a scale of grades 0 to 3 pinch-off syndrome (POS). Grade 0 exhibits a regular catheter course without luminal narrowing; grade 1 exhibits an altered catheter course without luminal narrowing; grade 2 exhibits luminal narrowing; and grade 3 exhibits catheter fracture (2). POS may present with pain or swelling of the shoulder region but patients may also be asymptomatic (3). Additionally, POS can be an incidental finding seen on a chest X-ray (4). Regardless, clinicians should suspect a possible POS if there is patient-reported pain or an abnormal catheter pathway seen on a chest X-ray. Further investigation via radiographic or fluoroscopic evaluation is warranted. Early detection of POS requires only catheter replacement but failure to intervene may result in life-threatening complications caused by catheter fragmentation. In such cases, pieces of the catheter may break off to cause ventricular tachycardia, vessel embolization, and cardiac perforation (5-7). In this report, we discuss two cases of grade 3 POS that were detected based on clinical and radiographic signs.