Arterial Line

Why does a patient need an arterial line?

Critically ill or injured patients frequently have profound abnormalities in their blood pressure. The arterial line provides a way to constantly measure a patient's blood pressure and may be essential to the stabilization of the patient. Arterial lines may be useful in patients with very high or low blood pressures. The arterial line also provides access for frequent blood sampling. Blood can be withdrawn from the patient through the arterial line tubing without having to use a needle for each blood draw.

How is an arterial line inserted?

Arterial lines may be inserted in the wrist (radial artery), armpit (axillary artery), groin (femoral artery), or foot (pedal artery). The arterial line is inserted into the artery by the same technique used to insert a regular peripheral IV. The arterial line is usually sutured (sewed) to the overlying skin to assure that it remains in the artery. An arterial line insertion causes the similar discomfort to that associated with the insertion of a regular peripheral IV. The arterial line tubing is connected to the bedside monitor, where the patient's blood pressure is constantly displayed.

How long is an arterial line used?

Typically, an arterial line is required for a short period of time. If the information from the arterial line is required for more than five to seven days, a new arterial line may be required.

Are there any potential complications associated with use of an arterial line?

The major complications associated with the arterial line are bleeding, infection, and rarely, a lack of blood flow to the tissue supplied by the artery.

Arterial line (catheter) inserted into an artery in the wrist (radial artery)