Skip to Content

Tunneled Central Lines in Children


A tunneled central line is a type of long-term IV catheter. A catheter is a flexible tube used to give treatments and to take blood. You can see the catheter under your child's skin before it enters a vein near his or her heart. You will need to flush and care for your child's central line as directed.


Before the 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 on your child. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Medicine may be given to help your child relax. General anesthesia may also be given to keep him or her asleep and free from pain during surgery. Your child may instead get local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. He or she may feel pressure or pushing during surgery but should not feel pain.

During your child's surgery:

  • The table may be tipped so that your child's head is slightly lower than his or her feet. Your child's surgeon will insert a needle through your child's skin until the needle reaches the vein. Ultrasound or x-ray may be used to help guide placement of the catheter. A guide wire will be used to help place the catheter in your child's 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 will stay in the vein. Your child's surgeon will secure the catheter to your child's skin with tape or stitches. A new bandage will be placed over the area to keep it clean and help prevent infection.

After your child's surgery:

Do not let your child get out of bed until healthcare providers say it is okay. Your child will need to rest for a period of time. He or she may need 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 child's vein may tear, or the catheter may injure a nerve. The catheter may go into the wrong area or blood vessel during surgery. Air or blood may leak into the space around your child's lungs and cause heart or lung problems. The area around your child's catheter may get infected, or he or she may get a bloodstream infection. The catheter may get blocked, and healthcare providers may need to remove or replace it.
  • Medicine may leak on your child's skin and cause pain, swelling, or blisters. Your child may 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. Your child may develop a blood clot. The blood clot may break loose and travel to his or her lungs. This can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Tunneled Central Lines in Children (Inpatient Care)

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

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