Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter?

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
Veins in the Arm
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PICC lines may be used if you need:

  • Long-term medicine treatment and cannot take medicine by mouth
  • Fluids—if you cannot drink enough to stay hydrated
  • Chemotherapy
  • Calories that you cannot get by eating
  • Intravenous (IV) medicine—if arm veins are hard to find or use

Once the PICC line is in, it can be used for weeks to months.

Possible Complications

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:

  • Bloodstream infection —occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around the central line
  • Bleeding
  • Heart arrhythmias (abnormal heart beat)—can occur if the catheter tip is out of place and too close to the heart
  • Nerve injury (tingling or pain in the arm where catheter is inserted)
  • Blood clots
  • Air or catheter embolus (air bubble or part of catheter blocks a blood vessel)

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Arm veins that are hard to find (due to obesity or poor blood flow)
  • Blood clots
  • Broken arm *...