UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: Arterial Catheters

Posted: 6/3/2009 by Mike Winters, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Heparin for Maintaining Arteral Catheter Patency ?

  • Arterial catheter placement is common in many critically ill ED patients.
  • Typically, a heparin solution is used in arterial catheters based on the belief that it helps to maintain catheter patency.
  • In one of the most recent studies (referenced below), the use of a heparinized solution did not improve the functionality, or increase the duration of patency, of arterial catheters when compared to a saline solution.
  • As the incidence of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) continues to increase, it is worth noting that the routine use of heparin to maintain arterial catheter patency is not well supported by the literature.


Del Cotillo M, Grane N, Llavore M, et al. Heparinized solution vs. saline solution in the maintenance of arterial catheters: a double blind randomized clinical trial. Intensive Care Med 2008;34:339-43.