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Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters and Midline Catheters


What do I need to know about peripherally inserted central catheters and midline catheters?

A catheter is a small tube used to give treatments and to take blood. A catheter can help protect your veins because medicine goes through the catheter instead of through your veins. 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 inserted into one of 3 veins in your arm. The end of a midline does not go past the top of your armpit.

How do I prepare to have a catheter inserted?

  • If you are a woman, tell your healthcare provider if you are or think you may be pregnant.
  • Tell healthcare providers if you are allergic to latex or have any other allergies. Tell them if you had radiation or surgery on your chest, or any problems with a PICC or midline catheter. Also tell them if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about all medicines you take. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a few days before your procedure. Examples include aspirin, NSAIDs, and prescription blood thinners.
  • You may need treatment for medical problems, such as an infection or a bleeding condition. Your healthcare provider may use an ultrasound to find your veins. He or she will also make sure the veins are healthy enough for a catheter.
  • You may be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the procedure. Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions to follow. The instructions will include medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

What will happen during the procedure?

  • You will get local anesthesia to numb the area.
  • A band will be tightened around your arm. This helps your healthcare provider see your veins. The band also stops blood from flowing into the vein while healthcare providers place the catheter.
  • Your healthcare provider will put a needle through your skin and into your vein. Your provider may use an ultrasound or x-ray to place the catheter correctly. Tell the provider if you feel pain or tingling while the catheter is being placed.
  • The needle and sheath (covering) will be removed, and the catheter will be left in the vein. Healthcare providers may secure the catheter to your skin with tape or stitches. A new bandage will be placed over the area to keep it clean and to help prevent infection.

What will happen after the procedure?

If you have a PICC, a chest x-ray will be done to show healthcare providers the location of the catheter tip. You may be able to go home after the procedure. Plan to rest when you get home. You should be able to go back to your normal activities the next day. Your healthcare provider will tell you which activities are okay for you. Do not lift heavy objects. You will get instructions on how to care for your incision wound, and when it is okay to shower or bathe. This is usually after about 1 week.

What are the risks of having a PICC or midline catheter?

  • More than one attempt may be needed to place the catheter. The vein where your catheter is placed may become irritated, and your skin may get red, painful, and blister. When the catheter is put in, your vein may tear, or the catheter may injure a nerve. Your catheter may get blocked, and healthcare providers may need to remove or replace it.
  • The catheter may break, bend, or move out of place. The IV medicine may leak outside your vein and cause pain, swelling, or blisters. You can have bleeding, an allergy to heparin, or heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). HIT is a low number of blood platelets. This increases the risk of bleeding. You may get a blood clot in your arm. These problems can be life-threatening.

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.