What kinds of catheters are used in critical care?

Julia Vicente, MSN
Critical Care Nursing Specialist

A catheter by definition is a "tubular, flexible surgical instrument that is inserted into a cavity of the body to withdraw or introduce fluid". There are many, many different types of catheters used in critical care settings.

  • Central line catheters - placed into a central vein for infusion and monitoring purposes. These also include PICC lines which are peripherally inserted into an arm and threaded into a major vein and used as a central line.
  • Arterial line cathereter - placed into an atery to monitor blood pressure and sample arterial blood
  • Pulmonary artery catheter - placed into pulmonary artery via a central vessel to measure pulmonary artery and other heart pressures and to infuse blood and medication and sample mixed venous blood
  • Urinary catheter - placed in urinary meatus to allow urinary bladder to drain and sometimes to instill medication
  • Suprapubic catheter - placed in lower abdomen through skin into bladder when the regular route of the urinary meatus cannot be used

Other catheters are placed into other passages and body parts to monitor pressures, place medication, drain secretions, and monitor other things. The list is long but the above are some of the general catheters that might be present in an ICU patient.

Catheters that measure values and catheters that allow access to veins are the main types used in critical care.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.