Most patients who need peripheral stem cell transplantation do not have peripheral venous access to allow apheresis for stem cell collection. Subclavian apheresis catheters have an unacceptably high incidence of thrombosis-related access failure. We have used a technique for translumbar insertion of permanent, subcutaneously tunnelled silicone rubber apheresis catheters into the inferior vena to place 58 catheters in 54 patients for stem cell collection. 37 catheters have been left in place for venous access during the transplantation procedures. These catheters had a very low rate of apheresis-related complications (3.6%). Access failure occurred due to thrombosis in 14 catheters (24%) and mechanical complications in 8 (14%) but these responded to standard therapy in all except 3 cases. Catheters functioned well as venous access devices during transplantation with only rare complications during this time. Withdrawal venograms at time of removal of 20 catheters showed a fibrin sheath in 17 cases but caval occlusion in none. There was no clinical or CT scan evidence of bleeding after placement or removal of the catheters. Percutaneously placed translumbar inferior vena cava apheresis catheters are an effective route for peripheral stem cell collection and can be left in place for venous access during transplantation.
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