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Non-tunneled Central Lines


A non-tunneled central line is a type of IV catheter. A catheter is a flexible tube used to give treatments and to take blood. A non-tunneled central line is placed into a large vein near your neck, chest, or groin.


Before the procedure:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Healthcare providers use it to make sure the catheter is in the right place and to monitor your heart and lungs.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.
  • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.
  • Vital signs: Healthcare providers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. Vital signs give information about your current health.
  • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Local or monitored anesthesia: Anesthesia is medicine that keeps you from feeling pain during surgery or a procedure. Local anesthesia is a shot of numbing medicine put into the skin where you will have surgery. You will be fully awake during the surgery or procedure. You may feel pressure or pushing, but you will not feel pain. Monitored anesthesia means you will also be given medicine through an IV. This medicine keeps you comfortable, relaxed, and drowsy during the surgery or procedure.

During the procedure:

  • You will lie on your back on a table. The table may be tipped so that your head is slightly lower than your feet. Ultrasound or x-ray may be used to help guide placement of the catheter.
  • Your healthcare provider inserts a needle through your skin until the needle reaches your vein. A guide wire is used to help place the catheter in your vein. A catheter that contains or is coated with germ-killing medicine may be used to help prevent infection. The needle and guide wire are removed, and the catheter is left in the vein. Tell your healthcare providers if you have trouble breathing, pain, tingling or aching in your chest, ear or arm. Your healthcare provider can move the catheter to make this stop.
  • Healthcare providers will secure the catheter to your skin with tape or stitches. They will place a new bandage over the catheter site to keep it clean and to help prevent infection.

After the procedure:

You may need to have a chest x-ray to make sure the catheter is in the right place. You will need to rest for a period of time. Do not get out of bed until healthcare providers say that it is okay.


  • The catheter may go into the wrong area or blood vessel during the procedure. Air or blood may get into the space around your lungs, causing heart or lung problems. You may get an infection where the catheter enters your body, or in your bloodstream. The catheter may break, bend, or move out of place, and not work. You may need to have the catheter removed, and a new one placed.
  • Medicine may leak on your skin, causing swelling, pain and blisters. You can have bleeding, an allergy to heparin, or heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). HIT is a low number of blood platelets, which increases the risk of bleeding. You may get a blood clot in the vein where your catheter was placed. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot may break loose and travel to your lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This problem can be life-threatening.
  • If you do not have a central line placed, you may not be able to get the medicines or treatments that you need. If medicine that harms small veins is given through a regular IV, your veins may be damaged.


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.

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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.

Learn more about Non-tunneled Central Lines (Inpatient Care)

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