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Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters And Midline Catheters


A catheter is a small tube used to give treatments and to take blood. The catheter is guided into place through a peripheral vein in your upper arm. Peripheral veins lead from your arms and legs to your heart. A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is guided into a vein near the heart. A midline catheter is guided into a vein below the armpit.


Prevent catheter-associated infections:

The area around your catheter may get infected, or you may get an infection in your bloodstream. A catheter-associated infection is caused by bacteria (germs) getting into your bloodstream through your catheter. Infections from catheters can lead to severe illness. The following are ways you can help prevent an infection:

  • Wash your hands: Use soap or an alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands. Clean your hands before and after you touch the catheter or the catheter site. Ask your healthcare provider for information on how to wash your hands. Remind anyone who cares for your catheter to wash their hands.
  • Wear medical gloves: Wear clean medical gloves when you touch your catheter or change bandages.
  • Limit contact: Do not touch or handle your catheter unless you need to care for it. Do not pull, push on, or move the catheter when you clean your skin or change the bandage.
  • Clean your skin: Clean the skin around your catheter every day and just before you change your bandage. Ask your healthcare provider what to use when you clean your skin.
  • Check for infection: Check your skin every day for signs of infection, such as pain, redness, swelling, and oozing. Contact your healthcare provider if you see these signs.
  • Cover the area: Keep a sterile bandage over the catheter site. Change the bandage as directed or when it is loose, wet, dirty, or falls off. Change your bandage in a place away from open windows, heating ducts, and fans. Be sure it is well-lit, clean, and free of dust. Clean the skin under the bandage with the solution your healthcare provider suggests. Let the area dry before you put on the new bandage.
  • Keep the area dry: Do not let your catheter or catheter site get wet. Wrap your arm with plastic and seal with medical tape before you bathe. Ask if you should take showers instead of baths.

Care for your PICC or midline catheter:

Your healthcare provider may want you to do the following to reduce your risk of infection or complications:

  • Clean your catheter parts: Clean the caps, hubs, and injection ports before you attach and after you remove tubing from your catheter. Open the package that contains the new alcohol pad. Put on new medical gloves. Use a new alcohol pad for each part you clean. Throw away used alcohol pads.
  • Flush your catheter: Your healthcare provider may give you syringes filled with saline (salt water) or heparin to flush your catheter. Heparin is a medicine that helps prevent blood clots from forming inside the catheter. Heparin can cause an allergic reaction and bleeding problems.
    • Attach the syringe that contains the flushing solution to the end of the catheter tubing. Slowly push the fluid out of the syringe and into the catheter. Throw away the syringe. Clean the end of the catheter or cap with a new alcohol pad.
    • Do not force the fluid. Force could damage the catheter, or release a blood clot from the end of the catheter. Straighten any kinks in the tubing. Contact your healthcare provider if it is still hard to push fluid into the catheter.
  • Change the caps and medicine tubing: You may need to use extra tubing to get medicine. Ask your healthcare provider how often to change the caps and the medicine tubing.
  • Clamp the catheter: You may need to clamp your catheter at certain times, such as when the tubing is being changed. The catheter is clamped to help prevent air from getting in.
  • Loop extra tubing: Loosely loop the tubing together. Secure it to your arm with medical tape. This will help prevent the PICC or midline catheter from being pulled out by accident.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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


This medicine will help decrease pain and redness where the catheter enters your skin. You can buy NSAIDs without a prescription. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if you do not take them correctly. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions before you use this medicine.

Warm compresses:

The area where the catheter was inserted may feel sore. A warm compress can help to decrease pain and swelling in your arm. Wet a small towel with warm water. Wring out the extra water. Wrap the cloth in plastic, and put it on the area. Use the compress 4 times a day, for 10 minutes each time. Prop your arm up on pillows when you are sitting or lying down. This will decrease swelling.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The catheter site is red, warm, painful, or oozing fluid.
  • You see blood on your bandage and the amount is increasing.
  • The veins in your neck or chest bulge.
  • You cannot flush your catheter, or you feel pain when you flush your catheter.
  • You see that the catheter is getting shorter or it falls out. Put pressure over the site with a clean towel before you contact your healthcare provider.
  • You see a hole or a crack in your catheter. Clamp your catheter above the damage before you contact your healthcare provider.
  • You have questions about how to care for your catheter.
  • You run out of supplies to care for your skin or catheter.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel pain in your arm, neck, shoulder, or chest.
  • The catheter site turns cold, changes color, or you cannot feel it.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You see blisters on the skin near the catheter site.

Further information

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