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:
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:
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?
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.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.