Umbilical Artery Catheter In Newborns

What is it?

  • An umbilical (um-BILL-ih-kul) artery (R-ter-e) catheter is also called a "UAC". A UAC is a small flexible tube that is put into the artery of the umbilical cord stump. The umbilical cord stump sticks out of your baby's belly button. The umbilical cord has 1 vein and 2 arteries. The umbilical cord connected you to your baby before birth.

  • After the UAC is put in, a small tube will stick straight up from the umbilical stump. It will look like an upside down "U" taped to your baby's belly.

Why does my baby need a UAC?

Many babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have a UAC. The following are medicines and treatments your baby may have done through a UAC:

  • Drawing daily blood samples.

  • Arterial blood gases (ABGs). This checks the amount of oxygen and other gases in your baby's blood.

  • IV fluids and medicines.

  • Checking blood pressure (BP).

  • Emergency medicines.

  • Heart tests.

  • Exchange transfusions (trans-FEW-shuns). This procedure replaces a baby's blood with new, cleaner blood. It may be done because a baby has too much jaundice, infection (in-FEK-shun), or waste in the blood.

What are the risks with my baby having a UAC?

  • There are always risks with any medical procedure. Your baby may bleed or get an infection (in-FEK-shun). Your baby may have trouble breathing or get blood clots. Air may get into your baby's blood through the catheter and cause air bubbles in the blood. Your baby may get cold while the UAC is being put in. The catheter may poke through an artery and your baby may bleed inside his body.

  • Your baby may get high blood pressure or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The catheter may make some veins spasm (SPAZ-um) and cause less blood to go to certain body areas. Your baby could lose a finger, toe, hand, or foot. The catheter may hurt body organs like the kidneys or intestines (n-TES-tens). Your baby may be paralyzed or die. Caregivers will watch your baby closely for these problems. Talk to your caregiver if you are worried or have questions.

What will the procedure be like?

  • Your baby will be placed on his back. Your baby's arms and legs may be secured so that your baby does not move during the procedure. Your baby's caregiver will clean the umbilicus (belly button) area with yellow soap. The soap will be cleaned off afterward. A towel with a hole in the middle may be put over the area.

  • Your baby's doctor will stretch the artery to open it and hold it open. The catheter will be carefully put into the artery. An x-ray may be taken to make sure the catheter is in the right place.

  • The doctor may use stitches (thread) to sew the catheter to your baby's umbilical stump. The catheter will be taped securely to your baby's belly so that it cannot be pulled out.

What should I do after the procedure?

While your baby has a UAC, your baby will lie on his back. You can comfort your baby by gently placing your hands against the outsides of his arms or legs. Speak softly to your baby. Ask caregivers about the best ways to support your baby.

When is the UAC removed?

Your baby's doctor will remove the catheter. Caregivers will put a bandage over the umbilical stump and gently squeeze the belly. This is to make sure the artery closes up and does not bleed. Your baby's UAC may be removed when:

  • Your baby's health is staying the same or getting better.

  • The catheter is causing an infection (in-FEK-shun).

  • Your baby's catheter is blocked or no longer works right.

  • The catheter is causing problems with the arteries or other health problems.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about UACs. You can then discuss choices with your baby's caregivers. Work with them to decide what choices may be best for your baby.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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