Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Umbilical catheters

Alternative Names

UAC; UVC

Information

The placenta is the link between mother and baby during pregnancy. Two arteries and one vein in the umbilical cord carry blood back and forth. If the newborn baby is ill right after birth, a catheter may be placed.

A catheter is a long, soft, hollow tube. An umbilical artery catheter (UAC) allows blood to be taken from an infant at different times, without repeated needle sticks. It can also be used to continuously monitor a baby's blood pressure.

An umbilical artery catheter is most often used if:

  • The baby needs breathing help.
  • The baby needs blood gases and blood pressure monitored.
  • The baby needs strong medicines for blood pressure.

An umbilical venous catheter (UVC) allows fluids and medicines to be given without frequently replacing an intravenous (IV) line.

An umbilical venous catheter may be used if:

  • The baby is very premature.
  • The baby has bowel problems that prevent feeding.
  • The baby needs very strong medicines.
  • The baby needs exchange transfusion.

HOW ARE UMBILICAL CATHETERS PLACED?

There are normally two umbilical arteries and one umbilical vein in the umbilical cord. After the umbilical cord is cut off, the health care provider can find these blood vessels. The catheters are placed into the blood vessel, and an x-ray is taken to determine the final position. Once the catheters are in the right position, they are held in place with silk thread. Sometimes, the catheters are taped to the baby's belly area.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF UMBILICAL CATHETERS?

Complications include:

  • Interruption of the blood flow to an organ (intestines, kidney, liver) or limb (leg or rear end)
  • Blood clot along the catheter
  • Infection

Blood flow and blood clot problems can be life threatening and require removal of the UAC. The NICU nurses carefully monitor your baby for these possible problems.

References

Santillanes G, Claudius I. Pediatric vascular access and blood sampling techniques. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 19.

Review Date:11/19/2015
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No