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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:

  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of problems with blood clotting. Tell healthcare providers if you have had a central line before.
  • You may need to have an ultrasound. You may need other tests before having the central line placed. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

The day of your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
  • You may be given sedative medicine to help you remain calm and relaxed during the procedure.


What will happen:

  • 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. Local anesthesia medicine will be used to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted. You may get general anesthesia medicine to make you sleep.
  • Your healthcare provider will insert a needle through your skin until the needle reaches your vein. A guide wire will be 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.


  • You get sick with a cold or flu, or you have a fever.
  • You cannot make it to your procedure on time.


  • 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.

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.

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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.

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