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Anesth Analg. 2009 Dec;109(6):1763-81. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e3181bbd416.

Radial artery cannulation: a comprehensive review of recent anatomic and physiologic investigations.

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Anesthesiology Service (129) VA Medical Center, 4150 Clement St., San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


Consistent anatomic accessibility, ease of cannulation, and a low rate of complications have made the radial artery the preferred site for arterial cannulation. Radial artery catheterization is a relatively safe procedure with an incidence of permanent ischemic complications of 0.09%. Although its anatomy in the forearm and the hand is variable, adequate collateral flow in the event of radial artery thrombosis is present in most patients. Harvesting of the radial artery as a conduit for coronary artery bypass grafting, advances in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the hand, and its use as an entry site for cardiac catheterization has provided new insight into the collateral blood flow to the hand and the impact of radial arterial instrumentation. The Modified Allen's Test has been the most frequently used method to clinically assess adequacy of ulnar artery collateral flow despite the lack of evidence that it can predict ischemic complications in the setting of radial artery occlusion. Doppler ultrasound can be used to evaluate collateral hand perfusion in an effort to stratify risk of potential ischemic injury from cannulation. Limited research has demonstrated a beneficial effect of heparinized flush solutions on arterial catheter patency but only in patients with prolonged monitoring (>24 h). Conservative management may be equally as effective as surgical intervention in treating ischemic complications resulting from radial artery cannulation. Limited clinical experience with the ultrasound-guided arterial cannulation method suggests that this technique is associated with increased success of cannulation with fewer attempts. Whether use of the latter technique is associated with a decrease in complications has not yet been verified in prospective studies. Research is needed to assess the safety of using the ulnar artery as an alternative to radial artery cannulation because the proximity and attachments of the ulnar artery to the ulnar nerve may potentially expose it to a higher risk of injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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