Estimating umbilical catheter insertion depth in newborns using weight or body measurement: a randomised trial

Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2016 Jan;101(1):F10-5. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2014-307668. Epub 2015 Aug 11.


Objective: Incorrectly positioned umbilical venous and arterial catheters (UVC and UAC) are associated with increased rates of complications in newborns. Catheter insertion depth is often estimated using body surface measurement. We wished to determine whether estimating insertion depth of umbilical catheters using birth weight (BW), rather than surface measurements, results in more correctly positioned catheters.

Interventions/outcome: Newborns were randomised to have UVC and UAC insertion depth estimated using formulae based on BW or using graphs based on shoulder-umbilicus length. The primary outcome was correct catheter tip position on X-ray determined by one radiologist masked to group assignment.

Results: UVC insertion was successful in 97/101 (96%) infants but the catheter was not advanced to the estimated depth in 22. There was no difference in the proportion of correctly positioned UVCs between groups (weight 16/51 (31%) vs measurement 13/46 (28%), p=0.826). The tips of 52 (54%) UVCs were in the portal venous system or too low on X-ray. Attempted UAC insertion was successful in 62/87 (71%) infants. More infants in the weight group had a correctly positioned UAC tip (weight 29/32 (91%) vs measurement 15/30 (50%), p=0.001).

Conclusions: UVCs were often not inserted to the estimated depth, and their tips were in the portal venous system or too low on X-ray. Using BW to estimate insertion depth did not result in more correctly positioned UVCs. UAC insertion attempts were often unsuccessful, but when successful, using BW to estimate insertion depth resulted in more correctly positioned catheters.

Trial registration number: (ISRCTN17864069).

Keywords: Infant; Newborn; Randomised trial; Umbilical arterial catheter; Umbilical venous catheter.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Body Weight
  • Catheterization, Peripheral / adverse effects
  • Catheterization, Peripheral / methods*
  • Catheters, Indwelling
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Umbilical Cord / diagnostic imaging*

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN17864069