Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)

A PICC line is a peripherally inserted central catheter. A catheter is a long, thin, hollow plastic tube. The catheter is inserted into a vein in your arm under ultrasound guidance.  It is then moved through your vein using x-rays until the tip sits in a large vein in the chest near the heart.  A PICC line takes the place of a standard IV (intravenous line). It can stay in place longer so you will need fewer needlesticks during your treatment. The PICC line will provide an effective method of drawing blood or delivering medications and nutrients into a patient’s bloodstream over a period of weeks or months without the need for repeat punctures to the patient. It is removed easily when it is no longer needed.

Before the Procedure

  • No food or liquids for 2 hours prior to the procedure. However, you may take all regular medications as scheduled with small sips of water.
  • It is recommended that you arrange a relative or friend to drive you home after the procedure.
  • Report any medications you are taking to the radiology nurse, including “blood thinners”, such as aspirin, Plavix, Lovenox, Coumadin, Pradaxa, Xarelto, or Eliquis. Your physician may advise you to stop taking a “blood thinner” for a specific period of time before your procedure.
  • If you are taking Coumadin or Heparin, or you have known or suspected liver disease, your blood will be tested to determine if your blood clots normally.
  • Report any allergies to the radiology nurse, especially those to iodine contrast (x-ray dye) or local anesthetic medications.
  • Women should always inform the x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant. Many imaging tests are not performed during pregnancy so as not to expose the fetus to radiation.

During the Procedure

  • You will be positioned lying on your back on the x-ray table with your arm out to the side.
  • A band will be tightened around your arm to help see your veins.
  • Ultrasound will be performed to help find the best vein to use.
  • The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and the area is covered with a large sterile sheet.
  • You will feel a slight pin prick when the local anesthetic (numbing medicine) is injected in the area where your catheter will be placed.
  • The catheter is gently passed into the vein. It is advanced until the tip is in the large vein close to the heart. An x-ray is done to confirm the catheter’s position. The other end of the catheter is at the skin at your arm.
  • The catheter is secured to your skin with a bandage to keep it clean.

Potential Risks and Complications

  • Bleeding at the procedure site
  • Infection at the procedure site
  • Injury to the blood vessel
  • Accidental insertion into an artery instead of a vein
  • Nerve injury
  • Temporary irregular heartbeat
  • Blockage of a blood vessel leading to the heart
  • Problems due to iodine contrast, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

After the Procedure

  • You can help prevent an infection around your catheter by washing your hands before you touch the catheter, limiting contact with the catheter, keeping your skin around the catheter clean and dry, and covering the catheter site with a sterile bandage.
  • Mild pain, discomfort, or bruising at the procedure site is expected. You may take over-the-counter Tylenol for any pain you may experience.
  • Call your doctor if you have any of the following:
    • Signs of infection at the procedure site, such as redness, swelling, or a fever.
    • Bleeding from the procedure site.
    • Worsening, severe pain near the procedure site.
    • The veins in your neck or chest bulge.
    • You see that the catheter is getting shorter, or it falls out.
    • You see a hole or a crack in your catheter.
    • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • If any further questions or complications arise and you do not know what to do, please call the radiology department at Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center at (928) 537-4375, ext. 6332.