Central Line Placement: Ultrasound Vs Manometry

Ultrasound vs Manometry

Central venous catheterization is a vital medical procedure, widely used in various healthcare settings. While it plays a crucial role in patient care, it also carries inherent risks, including arterial puncture, pneumothorax, and infection. To mitigate these risks and ensure patient safety, two primary techniques are commonly employed: manometry vs. ultrasound. In this comprehensive comparison, we will delve into the benefits and drawbacks of both methods

Ultrasound vs. Manometry Overview

Central line placement is a very safe procedure in experienced hands. However, each year a new group of medical trainees arrives and needs to be quickly educated about how to perform safe central line placement. If you are a trainee looking to learn safe central line placement, there are two key techniques for safe central line placement: Ultrasound use and manometry.

One common source of confusion and debate between many instructors during central line placement is: if we are using ultrasound do we still need manometry?

Before we get any further into the topic the debate is simple: use both!

Ultrasound and manometry each provide a different type of information which is used together to confirm that the tip of your needle or catheter ( see our article, Central Placement: Steel needle vs angiocatheter ) is in a vein and not an artery before you proceed to dilate the vessel.

The Benefits of Using Ultrasound for Central Line Placement

I am an ultrasound fan. I use the ultrasound for most procedures that I perform as an anesthesiologist. Not because I lack the skills to perform procedures without an ultrasound but because the ultrasound makes me more reliable for everyone around me, especially the patient.

First: Ultrasound helps shorten the time to access the vessel.

First and foremost, ultrasound use does not add meaningful time to the average procedure if you have a system that has the ultrasound available without waiting. If you wait to use the ultrasound only when it’s difficult, there will be delays involved, thus I prefer having to tools I need available from the beginning.

I trained during the landmark technique era when almost every central line was placed using the landmark technique with a finder needle.

When the patient’s anatomy is normal and the operator is experienced, the landmark technique will win the speed contest hands down! I will not argue that. Thankfully we have moved on from a speed-at-all-costs era in healthcare and are focusing more on outcomes for the patient.

Ultrasound shortens the procedure time by:

  • Reducing the number of outliers from your central line placement average.
  • Allows for pre-scanning of the vessels when considering line placement and allows for proper site selection.
  • Allows for troubleshooting wire placement if difficulties are encountered

Second: Ultrasound allows for confirmation of the wire position and troubleshooting

Once you have accessed the vessel, it is crucial to confirm that you are placing your wire into the correct vessel. With ultrasound, we can visualize the wire in the correct vessel.

This process is not bulletproof, however. There are case reports such as these that report the wire going through the vein and into the artery.

Real-time manometry with the Compass Device

While we still perform manometry using a 30cm length of IV tubing, there are newer devices on the market such as the Compass device by Centurion which provides real-time digital pressure reading of the needle tip.

I don’t have any relationship with the device or company but if you want to learn more, here is the website: Centurion Compass

The combination of this device with the Arrow Raulerson Spring-Wire introduction syringe allows for manometry and wire placement without having to detach or remove any syringes or devices.

Safety is the number one priority. Do no harm.

Injury during a central line placement can result in a claim payout, on average, of $95,000 excluding legal expenses. (1 )

Real-Time Manometry with IV extension tubing:

The most common way to perform manometry is to use IV extension tubing to create a column of blood the same way you would measure a CVP.

After you access the vessel, you attach your IV extension tubing to the hub of your needle or catheter depending on which technique you are using to obtain venous access.

To learn more see: Central Line Placement: Steel Needle vs Angiocatheter.

The Role of Various Specialties in Central Line Insertions:

Who is placing a central line in the hospital has changed over time(2). Central line placement was originally a rite of internship with throngs of interns going through a watch one, do one, teach one process.

Today in most institutions, the number of specialties has decreased, and surprisingly, radiology is now the dominant group in many locations, surpassing surgery and anesthesiology as the most common specialty. (2)

Between 1992 and 2011, temporary and long-term CVA placement procedures increased from 638,703 to 808,071 (+27%) and from 76,444 to 316,042 (+313%), respectively.

For temporary central venous catheters, radiology (from 0.4% in 1992 to 32.6% in 2011) now exceeds anesthesiology (from 37% to 22%) and surgery (from 30.4% to 11.7%) as the dominant provider group.

Although volumes remain small (<10% of all procedures), midlevel practitioners have experienced >100-fold growth for most services.

A Comparative Analysis

Let’s compare manometry and ultrasound across key aspects to determine their suitability in different clinical scenarios.

SafetyProvides pressure readings to confirm venous placement.Offers superior safety through real-time visualization.
AccuracyAccurate pressure measurements Provides high accuracy in visualizing veins and structures.
SpeedMay require an additional 10 – 15 seconds to perform manometryTypically speeds up the procedure with real-time guidance.
AccessibilityUniversally accessible Requires equipment and expertise but increasingly available.
CostGenerally cost-effective using basic IV tubing.May be more expensive due to equipment and training.

Clinical Scenarios: Choosing the Right Technique

The choice between manometry and ultrasound should align with the clinical context and individual patient factors. Here are scenarios where one technique may be preferred:


  1. Routine Cases: For straightforward central venous catheterization where the anatomy is clear, manometry provides adequate confirmation.
  2. Limited Resources: In settings with limited access to ultrasound equipment, manometry remains valuable.

Related Post: Comparing French Sizing to Gauge for IVs and Central Venous Catheters


  1. Challenging Anatomy: When dealing with complex anatomy, like obesity or distorted vasculature, ultrasound offers essential visual guidance.
  2. High-Risk Patients: Patients at high risk of complications benefit from ultrasound’s added safety.
  3. Complex Procedures: During intricate procedures requiring precise catheter placement, such as hemodialysis access, ultrasound’s real-time visualization shines.


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