Heparin Flush Use in Transfemoral Cerebral Angiography Survey

Margaret Korzewski, Lori Madden, Kendra Schomer, Karen Van Leuven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The drug concentration of heparinized saline used for transfemoral catheter angiography flush during different types of cerebral angiogram procedures varies among providers and centers worldwide. Although heparin is recommended for use during cerebral angiograms to minimize the risk of thromboembolic events associated with the utilization of multiple endovascular devices and lengthy procedures, there is a paucity of information available regarding protocols for administration of heparin and heparinized saline. Higher concentrations of heparinized saline flush may benefit patients undergoing elective nonruptured intracranial aneurysm embolization procedures by decreasing the risk of thromboembolism. However, it could potentially place patients undergoing revascularization procedures for acute ischemic stroke at higher risk of symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage, particularly if they received intravenous tissue plasminogen activator immediately before endovascular thrombectomy. After obtaining permission from the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing (ARIN) Board of Directors, a survey was presented in English and electronically distributed by the ARIN to all current and past ARIN members with valid e-mail addresses. The survey was preceded by an introductory letter explaining the study purpose and its voluntary nature. Response to the survey was identified as consent to participate. Subjects were asked to participate if they were currently involved in the management of patients undergoing cerebral angiography with a variety of interventions including management of acute ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. There is a paucity of evidence supporting use of a specific concentration of heparinized saline solution. It ranges from no heparin added to concentrations exceeding 5 units/mL for transfemoral flush. The most frequently used concentration is 2 units/mL (32.8–34.8% of respondents depending on endovascular intervention), and the least frequently utilized concentrations are 3 units/mL and higher than 5 units/mL (4.3–5.7% of respondents depending on endovascular intervention). Mixing and labeling bags with heparinized saline flush was noted to be the responsibility of interventional radiology registered nurse (39%, n = 46), pharmacy (26.3%, n = 31), or the angiography technologist (8.5%, n = 10). More than quarter (26.5%) of respondents noted not having readily available premixed heparinized saline flush. Twenty-four (20.3%) of survey participants claimed using only premixed bags of heparinized saline solution. Despite the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Institute for Safe Medication Practices and Joint Commission recommendations, there are no standard protocols across stroke centers identifying optimal heparinized saline flush solution concentration, preparation, and documentation. Replication of this survey among members of the American Society of Neuroradiology is recommended to validate the findings from the present study. If confirmed, a consensus on safety of heparinized saline flush use during neuroradiology interventions is strongly advised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Radiology Nursing
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Brain aneurysm embolization
  • Cerebral angiography
  • Endovascular thrombectomy
  • Heparinized saline solution
  • Transfemoral flush

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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