Retrograde blood flow in the brachial and axillary arteries during routine radial arterial catheter flushing

Glenn S. Murphy*, Joseph W. Szokol, Jesse H. Marymont, Michael J. Avram, Jeffery S. Vender, John Kubasiak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Flushing of radial arterial catheters may be associated with retrograde embolization of air or thrombus into the cerebral circulation. For embolization into the central circulation to occur, sufficient pressure must be generated during the flushing process to reverse antegrade blood flow in the arterial blood vessels of the upper extremity. This ultrasound study was designed to examine whether routine radial catheter flushing practices produce retrograde blood flow patterns in the brachial and proximal axillary arteries. METHODS: Duplex ultrasound examinations of the brachial and axillary arteries were conducted in 100 surgical patients to quantify direction and velocity of blood flow during catheter flushing. After obtaining Doppler spectral images of brachial and axillary arterial flow patterns, manual flushing was performed by injecting 10 ml flush solution using a syringe at a rate reflecting standard clinical practices. The flow-regulating device on the pressurized (300 mmHg) arterial flushing-sampling system was then opened for 10 s to deliver a rapid bolus of fluid (flush valve opening). RESULTS: The rate of manual flush solution injection through the radial arterial catheter was related to the probability of retrograde flow in the axillary artery (P < 0.001). Reversed arterial flow was noted in the majority of subjects (33 of 51) at a manual flush rate of less than 9 s and in no subjects (0 of 48) at a rate 9 s or greater. Retrograde flow was observed less frequently during flush valve opening (2 of 99 patients; P < 0.001 vs. manual flushing). CONCLUSIONS: Rapid manual flushing of radial arterial catheters at rates faster than 1 ml/s produces retrograde flow in the proximal axillary artery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-497
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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