Pulmonary Artery Catheters

What is a Pulmonary Artery Catheter?

Pulmonary Artery Catheter (PAC or Swan Ganz Catheter) is the insertion of a catheter into a pulmonary artery(artery branching out of the right ventricle of the heart). Its purpose is diagnostic; it is used to detect heart failure or sepsis, monitor therapy, and evaluate the effects of drugs. The pulmonary artery catheter allows direct, simultaneous measurement of pressures in the right atrium, right ventricle, pulmonary artery, and the filling pressure (“wedge” pressure) of the left atrium and it also provides indirect measurements such as Cardiac Output, Cardiac Index and SVR(Systemic Vascular Resistance).

The pulmonary artery catheter is commonly used for critically ill and unstable Patients in Intensive Care with heart and lung diseases such as

the list includes all major indications for a PA- Catheter and there are other less common indications

Pulmonary artery catheter

How Does a Pulmonary Artery Catheter Work?

The pulmonary artery catheter can be used to provide the following important clinical information about a Patient:

  • The efficiency of the pumping action of the heart, by measuring Cardiac Output and Cardiac Index
  • The volume of fluid in the cardiovascular system by measuring a “wedge” pressure(filling pressure)
  • Pressure in the right and left side of the heart
  • Pressure in the blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs, by measuring the “PA- Pressures” or Pulmonary Artery Pressures
  • Access to “mixed venous” blood gas analysis and saturation measurements, in order to determine whether the cardiac output and oxygen delivery is high enough to meet a Patient’s needs.

 Typical placement of a Pulmonary Artery Catheter

How long does the Pulmonary Artery Catheter need to stay in?

A Pulmonary Artery Catheter is usually a short term therapeutic measure and shouldn’t stay for much longer than 48-72 hours. Sometimes clinical indications such as clinically very unstable Patients with major heart or lung diseases, may necessitate for the Pulmonary Artery Catheter to stay longer than 72 hours, if the ICU team thinks the benefit of having access to critical clinical information outweighs the risk of infection.

Are There Any Complications?

If your loved one has a Pulmonary Artery Catheter inserted and in place for a few days, it is not without risk, and complications can be life threatening. It can lead to

  • arrhythmia’s of the heart
  • rupture of the pulmonary artery
  • thrombosis(blood clots)
  • infection
  • pneumothorax
  • bleeding and other problems

Any Questions?

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.

All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff.

The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual Patient variation. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. INTENSIVE CARE HOTLINE attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual Patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.

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