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Tunneled Central Lines


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 skin before it enters a vein near your heart. You will need to flush and care for your central line as directed.

Tunneled Central Venous Access Device


Before your surgery:

  • 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 may be given to help you relax. General anesthesia may also be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead get local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. You may feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel pain.

During your surgery:

  • The table may be tipped so that your head is slightly lower than your feet. Your surgeon will insert a needle through your skin until the needle reaches your 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 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 surgeon 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 surgery:

Do not get out of bed until healthcare providers say 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 surgery. 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 develop a blood clot. The blood clot may break loose and travel to your lungs. This can be life-threatening.


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.

Learn more about Tunneled Central Lines (Inpatient Care)

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