Severe catheter-related thromboatheromatous lesions were found at necropsy in 33 of 56 infants who had umbilical arterial catheters passed during life. In infants dying within 8 days of insertion of the catheter, varying degrees of thrombosis of the aorta and its major branches were seen. With increasing thrombosis and aging of the thrombus, fatty deposits were seen first within the thrombus, and then in the intima and media. In addition there was evidence of proliferation of medial smooth muscle cells and of disruption of the medial architecture below the thrombus, characterized by the presence of abundant mucopolysaccharide. In infants who survived longer, varying degrees of organization of the thrombus could be traced, leading eventually to raised fibrous plaques with lipid and occasionally calcification. The lesions in the older infants were similar in many respects to experimental thromboatheromatous lesions produced in rabbits, and to some lesions of artheroma occurring spontaneously in humans. A wide variety of embolic phenomena were found, with features suggesting asynchrony of embolic episodes. The presence of thrombotic lesions could not be related to birthweight, Apgar scores at 1 and 5 minutes, age at catheterization, duration of catheterization, underlying disease process, age at death or the presence of hypothermia, acidosis, or anomalies in coagulation tests. There is a need for less hazardous methods of monitoring arterial oxygen tension.
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