A femoral catheter is a type of central venous catheter which is inserted into the femoral vein in the thigh. The catheter consists of a tube inserted into the vein with a needle, and fixed in place with stitches or medical tape, depending on the reason for the catheterization. The tube provides ready access to the vein for medical procedures and medical testing, so that doctors do not have to constantly poke the patient with needles when they require venous access.
Femoral catheters are usually used when other access points used to place central venous catheters are inaccessible or contraindicated. For example, a patient who has experienced repeated hospitalizations requiring catheterization might have no sites suitable for catheter placement in the upper extremities, forcing the doctor to go for the femoral vein instead. Some doctors may also opt to place a catheter in this location for a variety of reasons.
By providing access to the central vein, the catheter can be used to quickly draw blood tests and take measurements which reflect cardiovascular performance. Hemodialysis may be delivered via a femoral catheter, classically in the case of repeat dialysis patients who lack good access points on their upper bodies. The catheter can also be used to deliver intravenous nutrition or medications. After surgery, the femoral vein can be a good site to infuse analgesics, managing a patient's pain to keep him or her as comfortable as possible in the wake of the surgery.
To insert a femoral catheter, the doctor swabs the area clean and inserts the needle into the vein, going by feel or with the assistance of an ultrasound machine to make sure that the needle is placed properly. Once placed, the catheter can be secured in place and used as desired. The patient's freedom of movement is usually restricted by the presence of the catheter, as the placement can make it awkward or uncomfortable to walk.
The biggest risk with a femoral catheter is the potential for infection. Some studies seem to suggest that catheters placed in this location are more prone to infection, which means that the catheter must be cared for meticulously and the site needs to be monitored for signs of the onset of infection. Patients also need to be sure to communicate about discomfort and other sensations in the area of the catheter, as these can indicate that the catheter has been compromised by bacteria.