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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.


Before your 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.
  • Medicine:
    • Sedative: This medicine is given to help you stay calm and relaxed.
    • Local anesthesia: This is used to numb the area of your body where the surgery or procedure will be done. It is usually injected into the skin.
    • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.
  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

During your procedure:

  • Ultrasound and fluoroscopy 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 will be removed, and the catheter is left in the vein. Healthcare providers will secure the catheter to your skin with tape or stitches. A new bandage will be placed over the area to keep it clean and help prevent infection.

After your procedure:

Do not get out of bed until healthcare providers say that it is okay. You will need to rest for a period of time. You may need to have a chest x-ray. The central line will be flushed with saline solution, heparin, or both. Saline and heparin are used to help keep the catheter open and clear. Heparin may help stop blood from clotting inside the catheter.


  • When the catheter is put in, your vein may tear, or the catheter may injure a nerve. The catheter may go into the wrong area or blood vessel during the procedure. Air or blood may leak into the space around your lungs and cause heart or lung problems. The area around your catheter may get infected, or you may get an infection in your bloodstream. Your catheter may get blocked, and healthcare providers may need to remove or replace it.
  • Medicine may leak on your skin 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, which increases the risk of bleeding. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. 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. These problems can be life-threatening.
  • If you do not have a central line placed, you may need to get multiple needle sticks. It may be hard for your healthcare providers to give you the treatment you need. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about the risks of a tunneled central line.


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 Tunneled Central Lines In Adult (Inpatient Care)

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