Intravenous Line and Tubes
Because most babies in the NICU are too small or sick to take full milk feedings,
medicines, and fluids are often given through their veins or arteries. Babies may
also need frequent lab tests and measurements of blood oxygen levels. There are several
ways a baby may receive fluids and medicines and have blood drawn without additional
needle sticks. These include the following:
Intravenous line (IV). Babies may have an IV placed in a hand, foot, or scalp, where veins are easily accessed.
Tubing connects the IV to a bag containing fluids that are carefully delivered with
Umbilical catheter (UVC or UAC). After the umbilical cord is cut at birth, newborn babies have the short stumps of
the cord remaining. Because the umbilical cord stump is still connected to their blood
and circulatory system, a catheter (small flexible tube) can be inserted into 1 of
the 2 arteries or the vein of the umbilical cord. Medicines, fluids, and blood can
be given through this catheter. Sometimes blood may be drawn from it as well. After
placement of the umbilical catheter, X-rays are taken to check the location in the
Percutaneous line. A catheter is placed in a deep vein or artery in the baby's arm or leg. It is used
for meeting a baby's longer-term needs than an IV in the hand or scalp.
A baby may need IV lines or catheters for just a short time or for many days. Once
a baby is well enough to take milk feedings and is gaining weight, IV lines can often
be removed. Sometimes, an IV may be needed for giving a baby antibiotics or other
medicine even when the baby can be fed normally.