Insertion of Umbilical Catheter
(Umbilical Line Insertion)
Insertion of an umbilical catheter is the placement of a tube into the arteries or vein of a baby's umbilical stump.
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Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to deliver treatment or take blood samples in newborns. It can lower the number of needle sticks a baby needs. It may be used to:
- Remove blood for testing
- Monitor blood pressure
- Deliver nutrients or medicine
- Deliver or exchange blood
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Some may be:
- Bleeding or blood clots
- Infection in the blood
- Blockage of blood flow to internal organs or legs
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Certain measurements will be taken. This will help to determine how far the catheter is passed into the blood vessels.
Anesthesia may not be needed. The umbilical stump does not have pain nerves. The child will not feel pain.
Description of the Procedure
The baby’s stomach and umbilical cord will be cleaned. The top part of the stump will have the clamp that was placed right after birth. A cloth will be tied below the clamp, closer to the stomach. The umbilical stump will be removed just above the tie. The catheter will be inserted into the artery or vein of the stump. The catheter will be passed into place.
An x-ray will be taken to make sure the catheter is in the right place. The catheter will be stitched into place. The umbilical stump may also be taped to the belly.
Immediately After Procedure
The baby will be monitored. This includes watching the legs for any change in color and monitoring breathing and heart rate.
How Long Will It Take?
15 to 30 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
A baby cannot feel pain through the umbilical cord.
Average Hospital Stay
Length of stay depends on a child's overall health and need for the catheter.
At the Hospital
Staff will take steps to prevent infection in the catheter, such as:
- Washing hands and wearing gloves before touching the catheter
- Cleaning the catheter with an anesthetic
- Looking for signs of infection
- Removing the catheter as soon as possible
Treatment will be delivered through the catheter as needed.
The catheter will likely be removed before going home. There are no special steps that need to be taken after it is removed.
Call Your Child's Doctor
Call your child's doctor if your child is not recovering as expected or your child has:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills or swelling at the umbilical stump
- Pus around the stump
If you think your child has an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
The Hospital for Sick Children—About Kids Health
Insertion of umbilical vessel catheters. University of Iowa Children’s Hospital website. Available at: https://uichildrens.org/health-library/insertion-umbilical-vessel-catheters. Accessed January 13, 2020.
Umbilical catheter placement and care: Performing. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated May 5, 2017. Accessed January 13, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 9/11/2020