Saline Lock vs. Heparin Lock

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  • 0:04 Procedure for Labor
  • 0:43 Peripheral Intravenous…
  • 1:45 Saline Locks
  • 2:25 Heparin Locks
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Courtney Dohse

Courtney holds a B.S. in Nursing from the University of North Florida. She has extensive clinical experience in nursing, working in pediatrics general care, neuroscience, and rehabilitation, as well as in labor and delivery.

In this lesson, we will learn the differences between a saline lock and a heparin lock in relation to peripheral intravenous catheters, as well as discuss the pros and cons of each.

Procedure for Labor

You might associate IV catheters with administering fluid into someone's body. But sometimes they're only set up in case of emergency and so need to be maintained and locked. This is where saline and heparin locks are put to use.

Say Alice is in the hospital in labor with her first child. In her birth plan, she states that she wishes to have a natural, unmedicated birth with little intervention. The nurse explains to Alice that, according to protocol, it's important for every patient that is admitted to have a peripheral intravenous catheter (IV). Alice agrees but wishes to know more about the use and maintenance of the IV.

Peripheral Intravenous Catheter

A peripheral intravenous catheter (IV) is a small tube-like catheter that's inserted into a vein for medical use. It is placed for easy medication or fluid administration and allows medications to work the fastest because it's placed directly into the bloodstream. Even though Alice has stated that she wants a natural, unmedicated birth, it is important for an IV to still be placed in the event of an emergency. If there are complications with Alice's delivery, such as a major loss of blood, or fetal distress, she'll need to have quick access for fluid or life-saving medications to be given.

Most hospital protocols require an IV to be inserted for emergent situations such as this, so that obtaining venous access in a crisis situation is not an issue. However, when an IV is started and not in use, regular maintenance is important to ensure patency and proper functioning of the line. This is where saline and heparin locks come into play. Let's take a look at the difference between the two.

Saline Locks

When an IV is not in use, a saline lock can be capped off with a short piece of tubing that has ports on the end. To prevent the backflow of blood into the line that may cause clotting, the line is flushed with normal saline that remains in the tubing to ensure that the tube stays patent. In most adult patients, the line is flushed with 10 milliliters of normal saline, and then the line is clamped to allow the fluid to stay in the tubing. Saline locks are the most commonly used because they are cost effective and do not carry some of the risks that come with using heparin locks. It's also proven to be just as effective as heparin locks in maintaining patency in peripheral IV's.

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