PMID: 16931981Aug 26, 2006Paper

Retrograde blood flow in the brachial and axillary arteries during routine radial arterial catheter flushing

Glenn S MurphyJohn Kubasiak


Flushing of radial arterial catheters may be associated with retrograde embolization of air or thrombus into the cerebral circulation. For embolization into the central circulation to occur, sufficient pressure must be generated during the flushing process to reverse antegrade blood flow in the arterial blood vessels of the upper extremity. This ultrasound study was designed to examine whether routine radial catheter flushing practices produce retrograde blood flow patterns in the brachial and proximal axillary arteries. Duplex ultrasound examinations of the brachial and axillary arteries were conducted in 100 surgical patients to quantify direction and velocity of blood flow during catheter flushing. After obtaining Doppler spectral images of brachial and axillary arterial flow patterns, manual flushing was performed by injecting 10 ml flush solution using a syringe at a rate reflecting standard clinical practices. The flow-regulating device on the pressurized (300 mmHg) arterial flushing-sampling system was then opened for 10 s to deliver a rapid bolus of fluid (flush valve opening). The rate of manual flush solution injection through the radial arterial catheter was related to the probability of retrograde flow in the axilla...Continue Reading


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