Arterial thrombosis is the most frequent major complication of percutaneous arterial catheterization in children. We prospectively studied the effect of randomized dosage of heparin, 50 IU/kg-group I and 100 IU/kg-group II, on the incidence of arterial thrombosis in 366 children and analysed the various factors which may influence the occurrence of this complication. The age of patients ranged from 17 d to 11 yr (mean age 39.5 +/- 40.9 mo) and mean weight was 11.2 +/- 7.8 kg (range 3 to 39 kg). The incidence of arterial thrombosis was 9.8% in group I and 9.3% in group II (P = NS). There was no statistical difference in precatheterization and procedure variables in the two groups and also in the group with absent pulse (n = 35) to the group with pulse present post cath (n = 331). There were 24.9% infants in our study and 14.3% of these had arterial thrombosis. The loss of pulse was more often seen with more number of attempts at arterial puncture (P < 0.001), absence of back bleed at the end of the procedure (P < 0.001), and increased duration of catheterization (P < 0.01). Use of larger sheath size in a given weight and body surface area of children increased incidence of arterial thrombosis. The administration of heparin 50 IU/kg was equally efficacious to heparin 100 IU/kg. Of the patients with arterial thrombosis, 23 responded with intravenous heparin and 12 needed streptokinase. There was no bleeding or haematoma. Thus our study shows that less attempt for arterial puncture, use of smaller sheath size, maintaining shortest procedure time and ensuring back bleed minimises incidence of arterial thrombosis post catheterization.