The Anatomy of Arterial Punctures

Unlike veins, which are blood vessels that carry oxygen to the heart, arteries carry oxygen rich blood away from the heart to the body’s organs and tissues. A single main artery, known as the aorta, pumps blood from the heart into smaller artery branches. Different arteries work in various areas of the body. Each serves a purpose. Accidental arterial punctures can disrupt blood flow and cause serious consequences to the body.

Arteries have more muscle tissue and less lumens than veins. Arterial punctures to the renal artery will have an effect on the kidneys. A puncture in the hepatic artery will cause complications for the liver if left alone. The posterior and anterior tibial arteries both concern arterial punctures in the legs and feet. The brachial artery, found in the arm from the shoulder to just below the elbow, is used to take a patient’s blood pressure during doctor visits.

Arterial punctures happen from any accident where the body has been traumatized. In vehicle accidents such punctures are usually accompanied by broken bones, such as a broken ribcage, leg, arm, or neck injury. Sharp objects, such as glass shards from a broken windshield can puncture skin, organ, and artery.

Not all arterial punctures are accidental. A radical artery puncture is used to perform blood tests for gas analysis. This is done by applying anesthesia to the area. Then a specialized needle is inserted into the artery under the wrist at a forty five degree angle and drawing the blood into a syringe. If no blood is evident in the first try, a second attempt is made while in the same position. The nurse may need to reattempt the process on another part of the artery if unsuccessful on the first three tries.

Medically performed arterial punctures are useful in patients with respiratory disorders. Nurses, physicians, paramedics, and respiratory technicians all are trained to draw blood from arteries. Arterial puncture accidents by professionals are rare. There have been some reports of false aneurysms up to sixteen hours after the procedure. A false aneurysm is a rupture in one or more of the artery wall rather than the entire wall known as a blood clot.

Arterial punctures have less risk bias than capillaries and can be carried out in an emergency situation, but is painful to the patient. A hyperventilating or erratic patient needs to be calmed down before attempting the procedure. Finding the artery in some patients can be difficult. The result may lead to accidents with the needle and further complications if not immediately treated.