The first recorded placement of a central venous cannula in a human occurred in 1929, when Werner Forssman cannulated himself by passing a catheter from his own left cephalic vein into his right atrium. Since this time the insertion of central venous catheters has become an important skill for all hospital doctors to obtain. Cannulation of a central vein has many uses, particularly in critically ill patients, including monitoring the cardiovascular system, providing a route for intravenous access when peripheral venous access is impossible or inappropriate, allowing temporary renal replacement therapy and providing a conduit for the insertion of temporary cardiac pacing wires. However the need for central vein cannulation often occurs in urgent or emergent situations which are not ideal learning environments. We therefore hope that the information contained on this website will provide useful background information and compliment the knowledge gained in clinical situations.

Seldinger first described his guide wire directed technique for central vein cannulation in 1956 and although it is not the only technique available to practitioners, it is an extremely useful and frequently employed method of inserting all types of central venous access lines. We have therefore concentrated in this website on demonstrating Seldinger's technique using pictures and video material, which we hope clearly illustrate the principles involved.

This website covers all major aspects of central venous cannulation, from the anatomy of the commonly used sites to difficulties in interpretation of central venous pressure readings. It is envisaged that medical and nursing students, junior doctors and nurses – people involved in either inserting, caring for or interpreting central venous catheters and their results – will find this website most useful.

This project is funded by the LEARNet grant.

Special thanks to
the Centre for the Advancement of University Teaching (CAUT)
for the design and production of the materials on this website.

Last Updated: 9th March, 2005