PMID: 7418486Oct 1, 1980Paper

Complications of attempted central venous injections performed by drug abusers

J W LewisD J Magilligan


Intravenous abuse of drugs has become an integral part of various subcultures within American communities. The continued use of peripheral veins in this setting eventually leads to their obliteration through a sclerotic or infectious process. Inveterate drug abusers often turn to using larger veins in the groin and neck. Some real or imagined technical aspects of subclavian and internal jugular venous injections are well known to drug abusers in many locales. Undoubtedly as these skills are passed from one user to another, the fine points of anatomy and needle positioning are distorted with resultant mishaps. Twelve patients have been seen with complications arising from attempted supra- or subclavicular injections of drugs in the "street" setting: unilateral pneumothorax, six cases; bilateral pneumothorax, one case; mycotic subclavian carotid artery aneurysm, two cases; neck abscesses, three cases (one also listed under pneumothorax); and paraplegia, one case. Since this type of injury may occur in greater frequency due to increasing drug abuse, recognition and proper treatment of these potentially life-threatening problems may prevent mortality and reduce morbidity.


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