What vein does a central line go into?

If you’re a medical student, resident or clinician or in any way involved with patient care, this question is probably familiar to you. You may have even asked it yourself at some point during your career. Central lines are used for various reasons ranging from TPN administration to hemodialysis access.

So, what vein does the central line go into? Let’s find out together.


Before we dive headfirst into the world of veins and central lines, let’s take a quick step back and review some foundational concepts first so that we can all be on the same page.

What is a Central Line?

A central line , also known as a central venous catheter (CVC), is an intravenous (IV) catheter that is inserted through either one of several major neck veins or in one of your groin vessels(trans-vaginal puncture). The location depends on surgeon preference(Scary!). This device remains there until it no longer needed or there are complications with its placement requiring removal .

Why Do We Use Central Lines?

Central lines are used when administering medication directly to one’s bloodstream fails, as well as more long-term medications than peripheral venous cannulas allow. Often they provide support when invasive monitoring such as Swan-Ganz catheters-in which injection up pulmonary arterial pressure/oxygenation data are acquired-are necessary . If these procedures were done over surgical approach,it would mean going under general anaesthesia every time-eek!

Where Are Major Neck Veins Located ?

You should definitely know where your important soft tissues reside right?Various factors like BMI(fatty vs skinny patients),old age make them quite tough but here goes:

  1. Internal Jugular (IJ)- located easily below anteriorly placed sternocleidomastoid muscle(from mastoid process behind earlobe)
  2. External Jugular (EJ)-typically more superficial-close to the skin surface located laterally , at best for short access may cause air embolisms
  3. Subclavian vein(caudal end of clavicle)

These veins are dangerous and when cannulated can result in pneumothorax, arterial/capillary puncture/ bleeding stopping ventilation as they’re close to important structures , but your doc should have that covered if she/he has done their essential skills checkoff letter ahead of time.

What Vein Does a Central Line Go Into?

Finally onto answering the question you’ve been waiting for:
The answer is subclavian vein,Internal Jugular vein or Femoral vein depending on patient characteristics.Anatomically speaking,the subclavian and internal jugular veins are preferred over femoral vessels because they offer easier accessibility in emergency situations. It’s also often said that AVOIDING using lower limb vasculatures prohibits undetected septic complications-happy heart,happy surgeon! Still, there is not necessarily one option fits all so discussion with your health care provider/surgeon about relevant factors remains non-negotiable .

Using an Ultrasound For Under Monitoring At All Times Is Safest:

While ultrasound-guided insertion has become more common,it certainly does make things smoother sailing especially for learners having back up safeguards choosing where precisely to place this most invasive type of intravenous line.Furthermore,some patients will have considerations such as obesity which makes locating central lines via anatomical landmarks significantly harder.The pointy headed medical professionals I know usually recommend this guidance technique.(pun intended)

How Do You Insert a Central Line?

If you ever find yourself performing central line placement,you need to assume proper surgical PPE safety measures before anything else.Beyond scrubbing though,onset anesthesia begins , instrument cleaning followed by slight neck extension with external rotation towards site of interest(the bed-bound patient/scared awake guy should be watched here) These simple little steps help to ensure a high-level of precision and accuracy when it comes to central-line insertion.

A skilled professional sinks, the stylet(no,it’s not a fashion accessory), through tissue layers, piercing into your trachea or lung depending on crucial technique markers (doc speak for depth placement). If all goes well , you can attach necessary wires that track signals often utilized for pacing support during cardiac procedures;
sternal/infraclavicular pressure needs monitoring too so as not to damage anything.(Phew!)


The idea of cannulating veins might sound like overkill from its resulting complications,but there is no denying its usefulness in providing efficient patient care . Proximity and discussion between health care providers teaming up together with their patients makes the entire procedure(some like Dr.House may term “misadventure”)less stressful by clarifying any doubts about potential risks versus benefits beforehand.As always,remember-doctors have lives too.

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