Umbilical Venous Catheter In Newborns

What is it?

  • An umbilical (um-bill-ih-kul) venous (vee-nus) catheter is also called a "UVC." A UVC is a small flexible tube which is put into the vein of the umbilical cord stump. The umbilical cord stump sticks out of your baby's belly button. The umbilical cord connected you to your baby before birth. The umbilical cord has 1 vein and 2 arteries. Veins and arteries move blood through your baby's body.

  • The UVC 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 UVC?

A UVC is often put in when doctors cannot start an IV anywhere else in your baby. UVC's may stay in for up to 14 days. In an emergency, medicine may work faster when given through a UVC. The following are medicines and treatments your baby may have through a UVC:

  • Blood.

  • Exchange transfusion (trans-few-shun). 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.

  • Central Venous Pressure (CVP) monitoring. This is a measure of the pressure of blood in your baby's heart.

  • Total Parenteral (pair-en-ter-ull) Nutrition (TPN). TPN is a special liquid food that goes directly into your baby's blood vessels.

  • Strong medicines that could hurt your baby's smaller veins.

What are the risks with my baby having a UVC?

  • 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. Your baby may get cold while the UVC is being put in. The catheter tip may go through the bowel or liver. The catheter may make some veins spasm (spaz-um). This could cause less blood to go to the body area below the belly button.

  • Air may get into your baby's blood through the catheter and cause air bubbles in the blood. Your baby may get an irregular heartbeat. Your baby may get hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Your baby may 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 later. A towel with a hole in the middle may be put over the area.

  • Your child's doctor will stretch the umbilical vein to open it and hold it open. The catheter will be carefully put into the vein. 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 child's umbilical stump. The UVC may be taped securely to the belly so that it cannot be pulled out.

What should I do after the procedure?

  • While your baby has a UVC, your baby may lie flat on his back. Caregivers will watch your baby closely to make sure there are no problems while the UVC is in. You will not be able to hold your baby while the UVC is in.

  • 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 other ways to support your baby.

When is the UVC taken out?

Your baby's doctor will take out the catheter. Caregivers will put a bandage over the umbilical stump and gently squeeze the belly. This is to make sure the umbilical vein closes up and does not bleed. Your baby's UVC may be taken out when:

  • An IV line can be put in to your baby's arm, leg, or head.

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

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

  • Your baby no longer needs certain IV medicines or blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about UVCs. 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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