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How to Care for your Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter


What do I need to know about how to care for a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC)?

A PICC can stay in place for several weeks or months. You will need to care for the PICC, and for the skin around the catheter site. Proper care is important to prevent damage to the catheter, and to prevent infections. Change the bandage and injection caps every 3 to 7 days or as directed. Change the bandage any time it becomes wet, dirty, or moves out of place.

How do I prepare to change the bandage and clean my skin?

  • Place a bandage kit on a clean surface.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Put on clean medical gloves and a mask. If someone is helping you, that person also needs to wear a mask and gloves.
  • Carefully remove the clear bandage. Unsnap your line from the area holding it in place. Use alcohol to remove the tape. Remove your gloves and throw them away.
  • Wash your hands again with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub.

How do I prepare my supplies?

  • Open the bandage kit with the folded side facing up. Carefully unfold the corners of the bandage kit. Do not touch anything inside of the bandage kit with your bare hands. Everything inside of the bandage kit is sterile.
  • Pick up each folded glove by its cuff and put it on one at a time. Touch only the cuff when you put a glove on. Do not touch the outside of the gloves with your bare hands. Do not let them touch anything that is not sterile.
  • Open the cleaning pads and lay them on the bandage kit.

How do I clean my skin and the catheter?

  • Use the cleaning pads to scrub the area where the catheter is inserted into your skin (insertion site). Scrub the area around the insertion site as directed. Start at the insertion site and clean outward from it in circles.
  • Use a new cleaning pad to scrub the tubing that comes out of your skin. Use a downward motion to clean the tubing. Do not go up and down the tubing. You might get germs into the tubing when you go back up.
  • Place the pad that fits around the insertion site as directed. Place the tape bandage under your catheter line to secure it to your skin. Snap the line in place.
  • Apply a new bandage as directed. If the bandage is clear, make sure you can see the insertion site.

How do I care for the caps?

  • Wash your hands and put on clean medical gloves.
  • Twist the caps to remove them from the end of each port. Scrub the end of each port with an alcohol pad for 15 seconds. Place a new cap on the end of each port.
  • Your healthcare provider may tell you to place protective caps over the injection caps. The caps will protect your catheter from infection when it is not being used.

What can I do to prevent a bloodstream infection?

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands before and after you touch your catheter. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Tell others to wash their hands before and after they visit. This will decrease germs in your home.
  • Limit contact with your catheter. Only touch your catheter when you need to give yourself medicine or clean it. Do not let others touch your catheter or medicine tubing.
  • Keep the tubing clamped when not in use. This will prevent air and water from getting into your catheter.
  • Keep the catheter site dry. Cover your catheter with a waterproof cover before you shower. Your healthcare provider may instead tell you to place a plastic bag or wrap over your catheter. Keep your catheter out of water as much as possible. Do not swim or take a bath. These actions can cause germs to get into your catheter.
  • Check your catheter every day for signs of infection. Look for redness, swelling, pus, or fluid. Report any pain at the insertion site or signs of infection to your healthcare provider right away. A fever may also be a sign of infection.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, or have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have trouble moving your arm.
  • Your catheter falls out.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever or swelling, redness, pain, or pus where the catheter was inserted.
  • You see a tear in the tubing of your catheter.
  • You see fluid leaking from the insertion site.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.