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A central catheter is a long, thin tube that is inserted into a large vein. A central catheter is used to deliver medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy .
There are different types of central catheters, including:
- Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line)—The catheter is threaded through a vein in the arm until it reaches the larger vein close to the heart.
- Non-tunneled central catheter—It is inserted in a large vein in the neck or leg; the tube end is outside of the skin.
- Tunneled central catheter—It is inserted in the neck vein and “tunneled” under the skin. The end of the catheter is sticking out from under the skin, usually below the collarbone.
- Port catheter—It is inserted in a shoulder or neck vein. The port is under the skin, and...
Central catheters are inserted when patients need:
- Long-term medicine or fluids
- Nutrition, but cannot get it through the digestive system
- Repeated blood draws
- Blood transfusions
- IV medicine when arm veins are difficult to access
A central catheter is commonly inserted by special types of doctors called interventional radiologistsor vascular surgeons. Once the 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 central catheter inserted, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Bloodstream infection —occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around the central line
- Collapsed lung
- Heart arrhythmias (changes in the way your heart beats)
- Nerve injury
- An air bubble or part of the catheter blocks a blood vessel, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and rapid heart beat
- Blood clots in the vein or on the catheter, potentially blocking the vein
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Veins that are difficult to reach
- Blood clots
- Obesity *...