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Tunneled Central Lines In Adult


A tunneled central line is a type of IV catheter. A catheter is a flexible tube used to give treatments and to take blood. A tunneled central line is a catheter you can see under your skin before it enters a vein near your heart. A tunneled central line can stay in for several months.


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 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 area where it is inserted. 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 to 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 for as long as your healthcare provider directs. You may no longer need a bandage after your catheter site heals. 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 tunneled central line:

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

  • Clean the catheter parts: Clean the caps, hubs, and injection ports before you attach and after you detach 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 or 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 caps and tubing is being changed. The catheter is clamped to help prevent air from getting in.
  • Loop extra tubing: Loosely loop the tubing together, and secure it to your arm with medical tape. This will help prevent the catheter from being pulled out of your arm by accident.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Your healthcare provider may need to take out the stitches used to keep the catheter in place. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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.
  • 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 is cold, changes color, or you cannot feel it.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You see blisters on the skin near the catheter site.

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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 Tunneled Central Lines In Adult (Aftercare Instructions)

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