Patients with indwelling pulmonary artery catheters have historically been excluded from participating in early mobility programs because of the concern for catheter-related complications. However, this practice conflicts with the benefits accrued from early mobilization.


The purposes of this quality improvement project were to develop and implement a standardized ambulation protocol for patients with a pulmonary artery catheter in a cardiac surgery intensive care unit and to assess and support safe ambulation practices while preventing adverse events in patients with pulmonary artery catheters.


From October 2016 through October 2017, this single-center quality improvement project developed and analyzed the implementation of a safe patient ambulation protocol in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit. Frontline nursing staff and the interdisciplinary team were educated on a standardized protocol that facilitated patient ambulation. Data analyzed included distance of ambulation, catheter migration, presence of cardiac dysrhythmias, and adverse events during ambulation.


During this 1-year project, 41 patients participated in 94 walks for a total distance of 13 676.38 m. There were no reported episodes of cardiac dysrhythmia, accidental occlusion of the pulmonary artery, catheter migration, or pulmonary artery rupture related to ambulation with a pulmonary artery catheter.


The use of a standardized ambulation protocol can successfully result in safe mobilization of patients with indwelling pulmonary artery catheters.

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