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Umbilical Catheter

What is an umbilical catheter?

An umbilical catheter is a small flexible tube that is put into your baby’s umbilical stump. The umbilical stump is what is left of the umbilical cord after it is cut when your baby is born. The stump sticks out of your baby’s belly button. The umbilical stump has blood vessels that are bigger and easier to reach than the ones in your baby’s arms or legs.

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
  • Take blood for testing without having to stick your baby with a needle
  • Check your baby's blood pressure if he needs help to breathe or is being treated for blood pressure problems

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

What happens during the procedure?

Be sure to tell your child’s healthcare provider if anyone in your family has had problems with blood clotting.

Your baby will lie on his back and be held so he doesn’t move during the procedure. Your healthcare provider will put the catheter into a blood vessel in the umbilical stump. Your provider may use stitches or tape to keep 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 with the catheter.
  • An IV can be put into your baby's arm, leg, or head.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • Infection or bleeding
  • Blood clots that may travel to another part of the body and damage that part of the body

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-01
Last reviewed: 2014-04-01
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.
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