What Medical Conditions Require a Triple Lumen Catheter?

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  • Written By: K.E. Walsh
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2019
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A great number of medical conditions, medical tests and treatments require the use of a triple lumen catheter (TLC). Among the conditions that require a TLC are cancers, burns, comas, Guillain-Barré syndrome and myasthenia gravis. Triple lumen catheters come in many sizes and varieties, allowing for numerous uses. Medical professionals utilize triple lumen catheters for things as simple as blood collection or as serious as heart transplants.

A triple lumen catheter is a thin, flexible, cylindrical tube that has three separate channels or passages. Each channel has a lumen, or inner open space, in the tubing. The catheter is inserted into a patient’s body, and the multiple lumens allow for administration or withdrawal of fluids. These catheters allow direct access to the circulatory system, so the separate lumens, or channels, can be used for blood drawing, medication administration, intravenous nutrition, chemotherapy and more. Catheters are used to prevent repeated puncture of a vein and potential vein collapse.

Cancer patients regularly receive a triple lumen catheter as part of their treatment. During an outpatient operation, a triple lumen catheter is surgically inserted in to the patient’s chest. The catheter is used to administer chemotherapy medications, fluids, nutritional solutions and sometimes donor cells — in the case of bone marrow transplant patients, for example. The catheter is usually not removed from the patient until months after the end of treatment.


Triple lumen catheters are used widely in intensive care units (ICUs) and critical care units (CCUs). The catheters are used for plasmapheresis, where the plasma in a patient’s blood is removed and replaced with a saline solution, in cases of autoimmune diseases like Guillain-Barré syndrome and myasthenia gravis. Triple lumen catheters are also used with critically ill patients to administer nutrition and medications. TLCs can also be used with these patients to draw blood and other fluid samples.

Burn victims are treated with catheters rather than needle pokes because of the skin damage caused by their injuries. TLCs are used to help administer analgesics and medications. Catheters are also used to help replace fluids for these patients. In burn patients and coma patients, a triple lumen catheter can also be used to supply intravenous nutrition because swallowing cannot be performed by the patient.

Medical conditions requiring treatment with medications that can be caustic are also treated with a triple lumen catheter. Some of these medications can include calcium chloride, chemotherapy medications, hypertonic saline, potassium chloride, amiodarone and vasopressors such as epinephrine or dopamine. Administering these medications through a vein could cause phlebitis, or the swelling of a vein, or thrombophlebitis, vein swelling because of a blood clot.


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