UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: Complications of Radial Artery Catheters

Keywords: radial arterial line (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/29/2008 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 10/21/2020)
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Invasive Arterial Pressure Monitoring - Complications

In critically ill patients with hemodynamic instability we often place arterial catheters to continuously monitor mean arterial pressure.  Since we frequently use the radial artery for cannulation, it is important to know the complications associated with these catheters.  Scheer et al performed, perhaps, the largest review of complications of peripheral arterial catheters.  The results:

  • Radial arterial catheters
    • 19,617 cannulations reviewed
    • temporary occlusions - 19.7%
    • hematoma - 14.4%
    • serious ischemic damage - 0.09%
    • pseudoaneurysm - 0.09%
    • sepsis - 0.13%

Pearl: Although permanent ischemic damage is rare, when placing a radial artery catheter use the non-dominant hand.

Scheer BV, Perel A, Pfeiffer UJ. Clinical review: Complications and risk factors of peripheral arterial catheters used for haemodynamic monitoring in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine. Crit Care 2002;6:198-204.