My Child Has... Article

My Child Has...

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Umbilical Catheters in Newborns


What are umbilical catheters in newborns?

An umbilical (belly button) catheter is a small flexible tube that is put into a baby’s umbilical stump. The umbilical cord connects the placenta from the mother to the baby before birth. The placenta moves nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the baby. When a baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and the stump sticks out of the baby’s belly button. The umbilical cord has 1 vein and 2 arteries.

When are umbilical catheters used?

Newborns have very small veins and arteries. Sometimes it is difficult to place an IV in the baby’s blood vessels. If an IV cannot be placed, an umbilical catheter can be used instead of an IV to:

  • give blood transfusions
  • give medicines or fluids
  • measure the pressure of blood in your baby’s heart
  • give your baby a special kind of liquid food (Total Parenteral Nutrition)

What happens during the procedure?

Your baby will be placed on his back and secured so that your baby’s movement does not interfere with the procedure. Your baby’s doctor will stretch the umbilical cord open. The catheter will be put into a vein or an artery. The doctor may sew or tape the catheter in place.

What happens after the procedure?

Your baby will stay in the hospital while the umbilical catheter is in place. Your baby's umbilical catheter may be taken out when

  • Your baby no longer needs to receive medicines or blood this way.
  • An IV can be put in to your baby's arm, leg, or head.
  • Your baby's catheter is blocked or gets infected.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

After your baby comes home from the hospital, call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • The place where the catheter was put into your child’s skin begins to bleed or swell, or it becomes more painful.
  • Your child’s leg or foot becomes cool or cold.
  • Your child develops a fever.

Call during office hours if:

  • You have other questions or concerns about the umbilical cord.

Developed by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-09-16
Last reviewed: 2010-09-16

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Children's Mercy Hospital