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  1. Cook, Linda DNP, NNP-BC, APRN
  2. Bellini, Sandra DNP, NNP-BC, APRN
  3. Cusson, Regina M. PhD, NNP-BC, APRN, FAAN


PURPOSE: To design, implement, and to evaluate the outcomes of an evidence-based practice change regarding the use of heparin in intravenous (IV) locks to improve patient safety. Phase I of the project examined dwell time, hours of patency, gestational age at birth and at time of IV lock insertion, birthweight and weight at time of insertion, and reason for discontinuation for IV access devices prior to and following the practice change from heparinized saline (HS) to normal saline (NS) flush. Phase II of the project was to determine the effect of the educational program on staff knowledge of the use of heparinized saline vs normal saline flushes.


SUBJECTS: The setting was an 18 bed level III NICU located in the northeastern United States. A sample of 70 infants with IV locks were included in the study; HS (n = 34) and NS (n = 36) respectively. Infants with IV's that were converted to IV locks were excluded. Only professional NICU staff (n = 40) were recruited for the educational offering.


DESIGN: A comparative descriptive design with two components was utilized.


METHODS: A retrospective and prospective chart review was used to compare the outcomes of neonates with IV locks flushed with heparin and normal saline flush and evaluated the outcomes. A pretest/posttest design was used to analyze the change of the NICU staff's knowledge concerning heparin flush before and after an educational offering.


MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: IV lock patency after practice change to NS flush and the change of the NICU staff's knowledge concerning heparin flush after an educational offering.


PRINCIPAL RESULTS: There was a statistically significant difference in IV catheter patency with NS flushed catheters averaging 13 hours longer than HS flushed catheters (p = 0.02). Also a statistically significant increase in mean scores was noted for the NICU staff posttest after the educational offering (p = .0001). There was a 20% increase in knowledge scores.


CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this project support the current literature base suggesting that the use of heparin is unnecessary for the maintenance of IV access devices. Unnecessary exposure of neonates to heparin increases risk to patient safety and should therefore be avoided. Future research should examine the use of heparin in central lines in neonates. Findings additionally support educating staff prior to practice changes.