Intravenous literature: Leslie, R.A., Gouldson, S., Habib, N., Harris, N., Murray, H., Wells, V. and Cook, T.M. (2013) Management of arterial lines and blood sampling in intensive care: a threat to patient safety. Anaesthesia. 5th September. .
In 2008, the UK National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) made recommendations for safe arterial line management. Following a patient safety incident in our intensive care unit (ICU), we surveyed current practice in arterial line management and determined whether these recommendations had been adopted. We contacted all 241 adult ICUs in the UK; 228 (94.6%) completed the survey. Some NPSA recommendations have been widely implemented – use of sodium chloride 0.9% as flush fluid, two-person checking of fluids before use – and their practice was consistent. Others have been incompletely implemented and many areas of practice (prescription of fluids, two-person checking at shift changes, use of opaque pressure bags, arterial sampling technique) were highly variable. More importantly, the use of the wrong fluid as an arterial flush was reported by 30% of respondents for ICU practice, and a further 30% for practice elsewhere in the hospital. Our survey provides evidence of continuing risk to patients.