I was recently in the hospital and I required an arterial line in my right wrist. It was in for almost 3 weeks, now it has been out for 2 weeks. I have severe pain ranging from half of my right hand to my elbow. What can I do for the pain?

An arterial line is a very thin catheter that is inserted into a person’s artery, just as how an intravenous line is inserted into a person’s vein.  An arterial line however, unlike the IV is not inserted for administrating medication. It is generally utilized in intensive care medicine, in order to monitor a patients blood pressure in real-time. Injured or critically ill patients very often have extreme abnormalities in their blood pressure. Thus an arterial line serves as a means of constantly measuring a patient's blood pressure. Additionally they can also prove to be helpful for patients that suffer from very low or very high blood pressure. It also allows access to frequent blood tests or samplings. Blood can be easily drawn from this line and thus it eliminates the use of needles for every blood draw.

An arterial line may be inserted into the armpit, wrist, foot, or groin. The method adopted to insert this particular line is the same as that of an IV. An arterial line is generally stitched or sutured onto the skin, to ensure that it stays in place (the artery). This kind of an insertion tends to cause the same amount of discomfort that is associated with a regular IV. The procedure is performed by highly trained professionals and hence is very safe. Very rarely are complications seen. Blockage of the concerned artery, bleeding and infection are some of the possible repercussions. As compared to the regular IV line an arterial line is generally more painful.

However, the pain is generally experienced immediately after insertion of the line and on removal. The catheter, once in place generally tends to be painless and one may not even have an awareness of the same. Generally a patient may experience a little pain once the line is removed, but this tends to last for a few days. As you stated that it has been 2 weeks since the line has been taken out, there could be the possibility of an infection. Bacterial infections are a risk associated with these lines. Although, sterile equipment is used for the procedure, the catheter may at times get infected, if it has been inserted for a long time. Also, the bacteria present on the skin can at times gain access into the body via the site of insertion.  Consulting a physician would be the most ideal thing to do, to avoid further complications.

answered by G M

Hand pain cures

It sounds like you might have developed an infection in the arm that was used for the arterial line. An arterial line is similar to an intravenous (IV) line, except that the catheter is inserted into an artery and, instead of being used to administer medication, is used to monitor blood pressure and obtain blood samples when these tasks need to be performed frequently. In addition, an arterial line is usually a bit more painful than an IV line. However, most pain is usually felt immediately upon insertion and upon removal of the line. Insertion of the needle is of course expectedly painful, but once the catheter is in place there is not much awareness of it. On removal of the line you may experience some pain for a few days, particularly if the line was in for a long period of time. In your case however, the pain has lasted for two weeks and seems to have spread, reaching your elbow. Bacterial infection is one of the risks of using arterial lines. Although the equipment used is usually sterile, when it has been used for a long time (3 weeks in your case), it may get contaminated. Besides, bacteria from the skin can sometimes enter the body through the insertion site. You should get your arm examined by a doctor. If there is a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe appropriate medication.

answered by G M

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