A central venous access device, or CVAD, is a broad term that includes many types of catheters (thin, flexible hollow tubes) that are inserted into and positioned within a vein in the body to deliver therapies into the bloodstream or withdraw blood for testing. It is estimated that 5 million central venous access devices are placed each year in the U.S.
The tube is surgically inserted into a vein in the arm or chest, depending on the CVAD's intended use and the length of time it is expected to remain in the body. It is then threaded through the vein until it reaches the superior vena cava, which carries blood from the person's upper body, including the upper trunk, head, neck and arms, into the heart.
Complications of CVAD include occlusions or blockages preventing withdrawal of blood or administration of fluid. These complications can be caused by a kink in the tube, the buildup of sediment or precipitate in the line, or the most common reason, the formation of a blood clot.