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How to Flush your Child's Picc (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

Your child's healthcare provider will tell you how often to flush the catheter. He or she will also tell you how much saline to use to flush the catheter. Your provider will tell you if you also need to use heparin. Always flush your child's catheter before and after he or she gets medicine through it. If your child's PICC has more than one port, you will need to flush each port.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • Your child feels lightheaded, short of breath, or has chest pain.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child coughs up blood.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Blood soaks through your child's bandage.
  • Your child's arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your child has trouble moving his or her arm.
  • Your child's catheter falls out.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever or swelling, redness, pain, or pus where the catheter was inserted.
  • You cannot flush your child's catheter, or he or she feels pain when you flush the catheter.
  • You see a tear in the tubing of your child's catheter.
  • You see fluid leaking from the insertion site.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

How to flush your child's PICC:

Always flush with saline first, if you also use heparin.

  • Place your supplies on a clean surface. Supplies include the syringe of saline and cleaning pads. Heparin syringes will be given to you, if needed. Keep the pads in their wrappers until you are ready to use them.
  • Wash your hands for 30 seconds. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Then put on a pair of clean medical gloves.
  • Open a cleaning pad. Scrub the injection cap with the pad for 15 to 30 seconds. Put the pad around the cap, not over it. Use a twisting motion to clean the cap. After you clean the cap, do not touch it or let it touch anything. You will need to clean it again if you accidentally touch it or let it touch something else. Let the cap air dry. Do not blow on the cap to make it dry faster.
  • Take the syringe out of the plastic wrapper. Remove the cap from the syringe. Push the plunger until a little liquid comes out. This will remove any air bubbles.
  • Push the syringe onto the injection cap. Turn the syringe to lock it in place. Open the clamp if your child's catheter has one.
  • Slowly push on the plunger of the syringe to flush your child's catheter. Use several short pushes. Stop if it is difficult to push the plunger. Do not force the saline or heparin into the catheter. This could damage the catheter or your child's vein. The force could also cause a blood clot to move into your child's blood. Stop when about 1 milliliter (mL) is left in the syringe. This will keep any air bubbles in the syringe.
  • Remove the syringe and throw it away. Scrub the injection cap with an alcohol pad for 15 to 30 seconds. Put your child's catheter line back in place on his or her arm. Wash your hands again.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Further information

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