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Peripheral arterial line - infants

A peripheral arterial line (PAL) is a small, short plastic catheter that is placed through the skin into an artery of the arm or leg. This article discusses the use of PALs in babies.

WHY IS A PAL USED?

The main reason to use a PAL is to continuously watch your baby’s blood pressure. It also allows the health care team to take frequent blood samples without needing to stick your baby more than once. A PAL is most often used if your baby has severe lung disease that needs mechanical ventilation, or blood pressure problems requiring the use of very strong medications.

HOW IS A PAL PLACED?

After cleaning the baby's skin with a germ-killing medicine (antiseptic), the health care provider inserts the small catheter into the artery and connects it to an IV fluids bag and blood pressure monitor.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A PAL?

The most serious risk is an interruption of the blood supply to the hand or foot. Testing before the PAL is placed can usually prevent this complication. The NICU nurses will carefully monitor your baby for this possible problem.

There is a greater risk for bleeding compared to standard IVs, but the infection risk is lower with PALs.

Alternative Names

PAL - infants; Art line - infants

Update Date: 11/14/2011

Updated by: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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