Catheter-induced thrombus in the superior vena cava diagnosed by transesophageal echocardiography

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To present the role of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) in the diagnosis and management of catheter-related superior vena cava thrombosis.

Case history:

A 42-year-old woman with severe Crohn's disease presented with septic shock and pulmonary embolism three weeks after emergency laparotomy and ileocolic resection for small-bowel perforation with peritonitis. Cardiopulmonary evaluation with ECG, pulmonary artery catheter and TEE demonstrated no evidence of acute myocardial ischemia or ventricular dysfunction; hemodynamic indices were consistent with severe sepsis. TEE revealed a large sheathing thrombus surrounding a central venous catheter used for parenteral nutrition. A spiral CT scan of the chest confirmed multiple peripheral pulmonary emboli. Treatment consisted of systemic anticoagulation and antibiotics. To avoid further pulmonary embolism, the central venous catheter was not removed until six days later under TEE monitoring, which revealed that the thrombus was firmly adherent to the superior vena cava. The patient made an uneventful recovery and was discharged from hospital on long-term anticoagulant therapy.


In a case of catheter-induced superior vena cava thrombosis with septicemia and pulmonary embolism, bedside TEE was very helpful to make the correct diagnosis early, assess thrombus size during anticoagulation, and monitor cardiac performance and thrombus disposition during central venous catheter removal.

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