Arterial catheterisation in neonates can result in severe ischaemic complications but does not impair long-term extremity function

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We evaluated the incidence of arterial catheterisation and analysed the risk factors and the extent and outcome of ischaemic complications in neonates.


This was a retrospective cohort study of 1506 neonates admitted to two, ten-bed neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2014. Medical charts, daily reports and photo documentation were reviewed for arterial catheterisation and ischaemic complications. Patients with severe ischaemic complications were followed up to evaluate extremity function, scaring and cosmetic results.


There were 542 arterial catheterisations in 485 patients, including 275 born below 28 weeks, which resulted in severe complications in 19 of 485 (4%) patients. Three died before follow-up. Patients with complications had a significantly lower birthweight, lower postmenstrual age and higher rates of intracranial haemorrhage, retinopathy of prematurity and necrotising enterocolitis. They had also undergone multiple arterial catheterisations more often, needed longer inotropic support and had longer NICU stays than patients without complications. Extremity function was unimpaired in ten of 16 patients with severe ischaemic complications.


Severe ischaemic complications in neonates following arterial catheterisation were rare events, but could cause devastating damage. Most patients didn't show impaired extremity function at follow-up.

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