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Complications with Heparin-Lock Needles: A Prospective Evaluation

ROBERT L. FERGUSON, M.D.; WALTER ROSETT, M.D.; GLENN R. HODGES, M.D., F.A.C.P.; and WILLIAM G. BARNES, Ph.D.
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▸Glenn R. Hodges, M.D.; Veterans Administration Hospital; 4801 Linwood Boulevard; Kansas City, MO 64128.


Kansas City, Missouri


Ann Intern Med. 1976;85(5):583-586. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-85-5-583
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Because the frequency of complications related to heparin-lock needle usage is unknown, 221 heparin-lock needle insertions in 78 patients were observed for the development of complications. Upon removal of 119 heparin-lock needles from 42 patients, specimens were obtained for culture. Phlebitis was associated with 27 (12%) heparin-lock needle insertions. Only a positive flush culture of the heparin-lock needle system correlated with the development of phlebitis. Phlebitis developed during the first 4 days after heparin-lock needle insertion in two instances and later than 4 days after insertion in 25 instances. All positive flush cultures were obtained from heparin-lock needles in use for longer than 4 days. No patient developed clinically apparent systemic infection. These data suggest that heparin-lock needles should not be used for more than 4 days because, after 4 days of use, there is a significant risk of developing phlebitis, a lesser risk of developing contamination of the infusate in the heparin-lock needle system, and a potential risk of developing nosocomial infection.

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