Umbilical arterial catheters

Assoc Prof Craig Hacking and Radswiki et al.

Umbilical arterial catheters (UACs) are used in neonatal care for arterial sampling and need to be carefully assessed on all neonatal films. 


The catheter should pass through the umbilicus, travel inferiorly through the umbilical artery, then in the anterior division of the internal iliac artery, into the common iliac artery and then into the aorta. It is essential to ensure that the tip of the catheter is not in a branch of the aorta (where it could block the vessel or instill a high concentration solution directly into an organ-feeding vessel, such as the renal artery).

The tip of the catheter should thus be placed in one of two locations: 

  1. high position: at T6 to T10 level 
  2. low position: at L3 to L5 level

Intermediate positions are generally undesirable due to potential associated thromboses of major aortic branches between T10 to L3.

See also

  • umbilical venous catheters: can be distinguished from an umbilical arterial catheter as the umbilical venous catheter travels cranially in the umbilical vein while the umbilical arterial catheter travels caudally in an umbilical artery to reach a common iliac vessel

Article information

rID: 12984
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • UAC
  • Umbilical arterial catheter (UAC)
  • Umbilical arterial catheter
  • Optimal umbilical arterial catheter tip positioning
  • umbilical arterial line
  • UAL

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1 : normally positioned umbilical catheters
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  • Case 2 : umbilical arterial catheter in left femoral artery
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  • Case 3 : pediatric line placements
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  • Case 4: too high
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