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Peripheral arterial line - infants

A peripheral arterial line (PAL) is a small, short, plastic catheter that is put through the skin into an artery of the arm or leg. Doctors and nurses sometimes call it an "art line." This article addresses PALs in babies.

Why is a PAL used?

Doctors and nurses use a PAL to watch your baby's blood pressure. A PAL can also be use to take frequent blood samples, rather than having to stick a baby repeatedly. A PAL is often needed if a baby has:

  • Severe lung disease and is on a ventilator
  • Blood pressure problems and is on medications for it

How is a PAL placed?

First, the nurse or doctor cleans the baby's skin with a germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). Then the small catheter is put into the artery. After the PAL is in, it is connected to an IV fluid bag and blood pressure monitor.

What are the risks of a PAL?

  • The greatest risk is if the PAL stops blood from going to the hand or foot. Testing before the PAL is placed can usually prevent this complication. The NICU nurses will carefully watch your baby for this problem.
  • PALs have a greater risk for bleeding than standard IVs.
  • There is a small risk of infection. But it is lower than the risk from a standard IV.

Alternative Names

PAL - infants; Art line - infants

Update Date: 10/29/2013

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, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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