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Central Venous Access Via External Jugular Vein Technique

  • Author: Rick McPheeters, DO, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 26, 2015

Approach Considerations

Central venous access via the external jugular vein (EJV) is depicted in the video below.

Central venous access via external jugular vein.

Puncture of External Jugular Vein

Place the patient in supine position, preferably in the Trendelenburg position. Tilt the head contralaterally from the vein being cannulated. Position for maximal venous distention.

The second operator may place a forefinger parallel and immediately superior to the clavicle, where the EJV dives into cervical fascia for vessel occlusion. A stethoscope may be positioned to occlude the vein.[5] The patient should be instructed to perform a Valsalva maneuver.

After landmarks and the EJV are optimally visualized, decontaminate the area by painting it widely with povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine solution. Apply full sterile technique by donning gown, mask, cap, and sterile gloves. Apply sterile drape.

The EJV begins at the level of the mandible and it runs obliquely across and superficial to the sternocleidomastoid (SCM). Taking care not to obscure the vein, place a wheal of anesthetic at planned venipuncture and suture sites.

Stabilize the vein using your nondominant hand (thumb), applying traction to the skin distal to the chosen site of insertion to prevent the vein from rolling away from needle. Stabilization should be maintained throughout the procedure.

The EJV is usually superficial and is best accessed at a 10-25° angle. Upon entry into the vein, the practitioner might feel a “giving way” sensation, and blood should appear in the chamber of the venous access device (ie, flashback). After obtaining flash, the angle of the venous access device should be reduced to prevent puncturing the posterior wall of the vein. It should be gently and smoothly advanced an additional 2-3 mm into the vein.

While maintaining skin traction with the nondominant hand after the hub of the venous access device is lowered to the skin level, slide the hub of the catheter over the needle and into the vein.

While using the nondominant middle finger to apply pressure over the catheter to prevent blood spill and holding the hub in place using your nondominant index and thumb fingers, use the dominant hand to withdraw the needle and secure it in its safety cover, a dedicated biohazard sharps container, or both.


Seldinger Technique

Since its first description in 1953 by Seldinger as a method of vascular access for percutaneous arteriography, the Seldinger technique has become the most widely used technique for virtually all vascular access. The method has proved to be reliable and easily mastered, with an acceptable safety profile.

Appropriate patient and practitioner preparation and positioning are carried out as described. With the catheter in place, thread the flexible J-tip wire through the lumen of the catheter to lie inside the vein lumen. Gently advance the guide wire until approximately one fourth to one third of its length is within the lumen of the vein.

If resistance is encountered in advancing the guide wire, rotate it and then advance. Do not force it. If the wire will not advance, several measures can be tried. The wire can be withdrawn a few millimeters and rotated 90-180° before reinsertion. If the wire is not passing the junction of the EJV and the superior vena cava, an attempt to advance the triple-lumen catheter can be made.[6] Anteriorly manipulate the shoulder.[7] If none of these measures are successful, a catheter can be left in place and secured for use as peripheral access.

With the wire in place, remove the catheter by threading it backward over the wire. The skin and soft tissue adjacent to wire can be anesthetized at this time, if this has not already been done.

A nick made adjacent to wire with a No. 11 blade may permit easier passage of the dilator. Thread the dilator over the wire and use it to create a tract in skin and soft tissue to allow easy passage of catheter.

Remove the dilator and thread the catheter over the wire until wire emerges from the distal end of the catheter. Grasp the distal end of the wire and thread the catheter forward into the vein. Once the catheter is in place, remove the wire completely. Confirm intraluminal placement by aspirating venous blood from each port, and flush with sterile saline solution.

Secure with sutures or staples. Apply sterile dressing. Obtain a chest radiograph to confirm proper placement.


J-wire Through Needle Technique

With this technique, once the needle is in the lumen and confirmed by aspiration, the J-tip wire is advanced through the needle. The needle is then removed, and subsequent steps are essentially the same as those described above.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Rick McPheeters, DO, FAAEM Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kern Medical Center; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Associate Editor, Western Journal of Emergency Medicine

Rick McPheeters, DO, FAAEM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Osteopathic Association, Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Ireneo H Catoera, III, MD Resident Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Kern Medical Center

Ireneo H Catoera, III, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine Residents' Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD Professor of Surgery, Program Director, Vascular Surgery Residency, Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California

Vincent Lopez Rowe, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Surgeons, American Heart Association, Society for Vascular Surgery, Vascular and Endovascular Surgery Society, Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery, Pacific Coast Surgical Association, Western Vascular Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Special thanks to Doctors Adria Winter and Anh Nguyen for videotaping the procedure.

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External jugular venous anatomy.
Neck anatomy.
Surface anatomy of neck. Large arrows point to external jugular vein.
Central venous access kit.
Central venous access via external jugular vein.
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