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Umbilical Catheter

What is an umbilical catheter?

An umbilical catheter is a small flexible tube that is put into a baby’s umbilical stump. The umbilical stump is what is left of the umbilical cord after it is cut when the baby is born. The stump sticks out of the baby’s belly button. The umbilical cord has 1 vein and 2 arteries.

When is it used?

An umbilical catheter can be used to:

  • Give blood transfusions
  • Give medicines or fluids
  • Measure the pressure of blood in your baby’s heart
  • Give your baby a special kind of liquid food called total parenteral nutrition

Instead of this procedure, another treatment may be placing an IV in the arms, legs, or scalp. However, newborns have very small veins and arteries. Sometimes it may take many tries to put an IV into a baby’s small blood vessels. It may be easier to use an umbilical catheter.

Ask your healthcare provider about your choices for treatment and the risks.

What happens during the procedure?

Your baby will lie on his or her back and be secured so that your baby doesn’t move during the procedure. Your healthcare provider will stretch the umbilical stump open and put the catheter into a vein or an artery. Your provider may sew or tape the catheter in place.

What happens after the procedure?

Your baby will stay in the hospital while the umbilical catheter is in place. The catheter may be taken out when:

  • Your baby no longer needs to get medicines, fluids, or blood this way.
  • An IV can be put into your baby's arm, leg, or head.
  • Your baby's catheter gets blocked or infected.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and any risks. Some possible risks include:

  • Infection if bacteria get into the catheter
  • Blood clots that may travel to another part of the body and damage that part of the body

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if anyone in your family has had a tendency to have extra and abnormal blood clotting.

There is risk with every treatment or procedure. Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-01-25
Last reviewed: 2013-01-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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