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Thrombosis after umbilical venous catheterisation: prospective study with serial ultrasound


Background Umbilical venous catheters (UVCs) are associated with thrombus formation. Most studies on thrombosis in infants with UVCs focus on only one part of the route, and none assessed a control group of infants without UVCs.

Objective To determine the incidence and location of thrombi in infants after umbilical catheterisation and compare this with a control group of infants without umbilical catheters.

Design Prospective observational study with serial ultrasonography of the UVC route from the umbilico-portal confluence to the heart. Ultrasonography was performed until day 14 after catheterisation in cases and day 14 after birth in controls.

Results Thrombi in the UVC route were detected in 75% (30/40) of infants with UVCs in the study group, whereas no thrombi were detected in the control group of infants without UVCs (0/20) (p<0.001). Six thrombi (20%) were located in the right atrium. Most of these were also partly present in the ductus venosus. Six thrombi (20%) were located in the ductus venosus only, and in 12 infants (40%), the thrombus was at least partly located in the umbilico-portal confluence. Thrombi persisted after UVC removal in 25/30 cases. Two infants with thrombotic events were treated with low-molecular-weight heparin and resolution was found. In the other 23 infants managed expectantly, 2 died due to necrotising enterocolitis, 1 was lost to follow-up and in 20 spontaneous regression was seen.

Conclusions Thrombotic events occur frequently in infants after umbilical catheterisation. Most thrombi were asymptomatic and regressed spontaneously with expectant management. Routine screening for thrombi in UVCs is therefore not advised.

  • neonatology
  • clinical procedures

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