Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 553–563 | Cite as

Impact of intravascular thrombosis on failure of radial arterial catheters in critically ill patients: a nested case-control study

  • Yvan Fleury
  • Diego Arroyo
  • Caroline Couchepin
  • Helia Robert-Ebadi
  • Marc Righini
  • Johannes A. Lobrinus
  • Bara Ricou
  • Nathalie Delieuvin Schmitt
  • Angèle Gayet-Ageron



The patency of arterial catheters is essential for reliable invasive blood pressure monitoring. We sought to determine whether radial catheter failures were associated with intravascular thrombosis in critically ill adult patients.


This unmatched case-control study was conducted within a prospective cohort of patients admitted to an intensive care unit. The arterial catheter failure was the main outcome, which identified cases. Controls were patients with patent catheter until removal or 28 days of follow-up. The prevalence of intravascular thrombosis in cases and controls was determined by ultrasonography of the cannulated radial artery. Assessors were blinded to clinical findings. Failing catheters were removed and examined microscopically.


Catheter failures occurred in 25.5% of 200 patients during 584 catheter-days (incidence rate, 87/1000 catheter-days). The median patency duration was 13.1 days. An intravascular thrombosis located in front of the catheter tip was diagnosed in 42 of 50 cases (84.0%) and 24 of 139 controls (17.3%). In multivariable logistic regression analysis, the probability of catheter failure was higher in patients with intravascular thrombosis [odds ratio (OR), 36.52; 95% confidence interval (CI), 12.86–103.74] and females (OR, 3.45; 95% CI 1.32–9.05), increased proportionally to arterial blood sampling frequency (OR, 1.20; 95% CI 1.04–1.38), and decreased in thrombocytopenia (OR, 0.28; 95% CI 0.10–0.78). After removal, 15.7% of failing catheters had some luminal fibrin deposits, but none were occluded.


Most failing radial arterial catheters had no luminal obstruction, but were associated with an intravascular thrombosis. Among predictive factors, arterial blood sampling frequency is the most susceptible to intervention.


Catheter failure Critical care Monitoring Radial artery Thrombosis Ultrasonography 



We are grateful to Prof. Laurent Brochard (Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) for endorsing this study and providing positive feedback throughout as former Head of the Division of Intensive Care at the Geneva University Hospitals. We thank the patients, their family members and the nursing and medical staff involved in this study; Valérie Gardaz, Christelle Mounir and Claudio Andreetta (Division of Intensive Care, Geneva University Hospitals) for logistic assistance; Monique Coassin (Division of Clinical Pathology, Geneva University Hospitals) and Marie-Laure Grandgirard (Department of Communication, Fribourg Hospital) for technical support. This article is dedicated to the memory of our colleagues Sylvie Lejas and Jean-François Bellot, who were involved in the study as staff members.

Author contributions

All authors contributed to the study design. YF conceived the study, collected, analysed and interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript. DA collected and contributed to the analysis and interpretation of data. HRE and MR analysed and interpreted the ultrasound images. JAL analysed and interpreted the microscopic data. CC and NDS participated in data collection. BR and AGA contributed to the interpretation of data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest relevant to this article.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1420 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (MPG 28094 kb)

Supplementary material 4 (MPG 28610 kb)

Supplementary material 5 (MPG 23338 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature and ESICM 2018
corrected publication June 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yvan Fleury
    • 1
    • 2
  • Diego Arroyo
    • 1
    • 3
  • Caroline Couchepin
    • 4
    • 5
  • Helia Robert-Ebadi
    • 6
  • Marc Righini
    • 6
  • Johannes A. Lobrinus
    • 7
  • Bara Ricou
    • 1
    • 8
  • Nathalie Delieuvin Schmitt
    • 1
    • 9
  • Angèle Gayet-Ageron
    • 10
  1. 1.Division of Intensive Care, Department of Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology and Intensive CareGeneva University HospitalsGeneva 14Switzerland
  2. 2.Division of Intensive CareFribourg HospitalFribourgSwitzerland
  3. 3.Division of CardiologyFribourg HospitalFribourgSwitzerland
  4. 4.Division of Anaesthesia, Department of Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology and Intensive CareGeneva University HospitalsGeneva 14Switzerland
  5. 5.Department of Anaesthesia and ReanimationUniversity Hospital Centre of MontpellierMontpellier Cedex 5France
  6. 6.Division of Angiology and Hemostasis, Department of Medical SpecialtiesGeneva University HospitalsGeneva 14Switzerland
  7. 7.Division of Clinical PathologyGeneva University HospitalsGeneva 14Switzerland
  8. 8.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of GenevaGeneva 14Switzerland
  9. 9.Department of NursingGeneva University HospitalsGeneva 14Switzerland
  10. 10.Clinical Research Centre and Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of MedicineGeneva University HospitalsGeneva 14Switzerland

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