A peripherally inserted central catheter is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. This is commonly called a PICC line.
Veins in the Arm
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PICC lines may be used if you need:
Once the PICC line is in, it can be used for weeks to months.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a PICC line, your doctor will review a list of possible complications which may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Discuss these risks with your doctor before your PICC line is inserted.
You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area where the PICC line will be inserted.
This procedure is usually done in an outpatient setting, so you will not need to stay overnight in the hospital. If you are already in the hospital for a different reason, this procedure is not likely to extend your stay.
Having a catheter inserted increases your risk of a bloodstream infection. The hospital staff will begin the procedure by taking the following steps to reduce this risk:
Next, the staff will:
Your arm will be checked for bleeding, drainage, and bruising.
About half an hour
During the procedure, you will not feel any pain because of the anesthetic. There may be mild discomfort at the insertion site after the procedure.
Following the procedure, the staff may provide the following care to help you recover:
There are also steps that you can take to reduce your risk of infection:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
Vascular Access Management
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Caring for your peripherally inserted central catheter. Cystic Fibrosis website. Available at: http://www.cff.org/UploadedFiles/treatments/Therapies/Respiratory/PICC/PICC%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf/ . Accessed September 14, 2009.
Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated September 1, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2009.
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Walsh K. Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) care: insertion techniques. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=16&topicID=860 . Published August 28, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2009.
What is a PICC line and why do I need it? Vascular Access Management website. Available at: http://picclinenursing.com/picc_why.html . Accessed September 14, 2009.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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