Safety First: An Ambulation Protocol for Patients With Pulmonary Artery Catheters

Crit Care Nurse. 2021 Feb 1;41(1):45-52. doi: 10.4037/ccn2021957.


Background: Patients with indwelling pulmonary artery catheters have historically been excluded from participating in early mobility programs because of the concern for catheter-related complications. However, this practice conflicts with the benefits accrued from early mobilization.

Objective: The purposes of this quality improvement project were to develop and implement a standardized ambulation protocol for patients with a pulmonary artery catheter in a cardiac surgery intensive care unit and to assess and support safe ambulation practices while preventing adverse events in patients with pulmonary artery catheters.

Methods: From October 2016 through October 2017, this single-center quality improvement project developed and analyzed the implementation of a safe patient ambulation protocol in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit. Frontline nursing staff and the interdisciplinary team were educated on a standardized protocol that facilitated patient ambulation. Data analyzed included distance of ambulation, catheter migration, presence of cardiac dysrhythmias, and adverse events during ambulation.

Results: During this 1-year project, 41 patients participated in 94 walks for a total distance of 13 676.38 m. There were no reported episodes of cardiac dysrhythmia, accidental occlusion of the pulmonary artery, catheter migration, or pulmonary artery rupture related to ambulation with a pulmonary artery catheter.

Conclusions: The use of a standardized ambulation protocol can successfully result in safe mobilization of patients with indwelling pulmonary artery catheters.

MeSH terms

  • Catheters
  • Catheters, Indwelling
  • Early Ambulation
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pulmonary Artery*
  • Walking*