Critically ill patients frequently have profound abnormalities in their blood pressure. The arterial line provides a way to constantly measure a patient's blood pressure and may be essential to the stabilization of the patient. Arterial lines may be useful in patients with very high or low blood pressures.
The arterial line also provides access for frequent blood sampling. Blood can be withdrawn from the patient through the arterial line tubing without having to use a needle for each blood draw. Arterial lines may be inserted in the wrist (radial artery), armpit (axillary artery), groin (femoral artery), or foot (pedal artery). The arterial line is inserted into the artery by the same technique used to insert a regular peripheral IV.
The arterial line can be sutured (sewed) or attached via Stabilization device (transparent dressing) to the overlying skin to assure that it remains in the artery. An arterial line insertion causes the similar discomfort to that associated with the insertion of a regular peripheral IV. The arterial line tubing is connected to the bedside monitor, where the patient's blood pressure is constantly displayed.