Central line insertion is a core skill for anesthesiologists. Although recent technical advances have increased the safety of central line insertion and reduced the risk of central line–associated infection, noninvasive hemodynamic monitoring and improved intravenous access techniques have also reduced the need for perioperative central venous access. We hypothesized that the number of central lines inserted by anesthesiologists has decreased over the past decade. To test our hypothesis, we reviewed the Medicare Physician Supplier Procedure Summary (PSPS) database from 2007 to 2016.
Claims for central venous catheter placement were identified in the Medicare PSPS database for nontunneled and tunneled central lines. Pulmonary artery catheter insertion was included as a nontunneled line claim. We stratified line insertion claims by specialty for Anesthesiology (including Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiology Assistants), Surgery, Radiology, Pulmonary/Critical Care, Emergency Physicians, Internal Medicine, and practitioners who were not anesthesia providers such as Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) and Physician Assistants (PAs). Utilization rates per 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries were then calculated by specialty and year. Time-based trends were analyzed using Joinpoint linear regression, and the Average Annual Percent Change (AAPC) was calculated.
Between 2007 and 2016, total claims for central venous catheter insertions of all types decreased from 440.9 to 325.3 claims/10,000 beneficiaries (AAPC = −3.4, 95% confidence interval [CI], −3.6 to −3.2: P < .001). When analyzed by provider specialty and year, the number of nontunneled line insertion claims fell from 43.1 to 15.9 claims/10,000 (AAPC = −7.1; −7.3 to −7.0: P < .001) for surgeons, from 21.3 to 18.5 claims/10,000 (AAPC = −2.5; −2.8 to −2.1: P < .001) for radiologists, and from 117.4 to 72.7 claims/10,000 (AAPC = −5.2; 95% CI, −6.3 to −4.0: P < .001) for anesthesia providers. In contrast, line insertions increased from 18.2 to 26.0 claims/10,000 (AAPC = 3.2; 2.3–4.2: P < .001) for Emergency Physicians and from 3.2 to 9.3 claims/10,000 (AAPC = 6.0; 5.1–6.9: P < .001) for PAs and APNs who were not anesthesia providers. Among anesthesia providers, the share of line claims made by nurse anesthetists increased by 14.5% over the time period.
We observed a 38.3% decrease in claims for nontunneled central lines placed by anesthesiologists from 2007 to 2016. These findings have implications for anesthesiology resident training and maintenance of competence among practicing clinicians. Further research is needed to clarify the effect of decreasing line insertion numbers on line insertion competence among anesthesiologists.