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Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) Line  

Inserting a PICC line can spare patients from frequent needle sticks.  A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line is a small device that can spare a patient from repeated, uncomfortable needle sticks when drawing blood or administering intravenous (IV) medication is necessary. This very thin, flexible tube is an intravenous line that can remain in a patient’s arm for weeks or months, if needed, and does not interfere with daily function.  

Conditions Treated  

A peripherally inserted central catheter line may be appropriate for patients who require frequent blood draws or IV medications. For example, it can be inserted to deliver:  

  • Treatment for an infection, such as antifungal and antibiotic medications  
  • Treatment for cancer, including certain targeted therapies and chemotherapy drugs  
  • Liquid nutrition for patients who can’t adequately process nutrients from food  

Procedure Details       

Here’s a brief overview of how a peripherally inserted central catheter is placed:   

  • An ultrasound machine is used to identify veins in the upper arm.  
  • The insertion area is cleaned with sterile solution and numbed with medicine to reduce any discomfort.  
  • The PICC is gently inserted into a vein located above the bend of the elbow and fed to a larger vein near the heart called the superior vena cava.  
  • A chest X-ray is taken to confirm the PICC is positioned correctly, and the line is secured with a special tape and sterile dressing. 

What to Expect   

A peripherally inserted central catheter line procedure is associated with very little discomfort, if any at all, and is performed on an outpatient basis. Following the procedure, patients are able to bend their elbow and move their arm normally. PICC lines can be used in multiple settings, including by caregivers at home.  

As is the case with all medical procedures, PICC line insertion comes with possible complications. These include:  

  • PICC line blockage, dislocation or damage   
  • Vein damage in the arm  
  • Bleeding 
  • Infection  
  • Nerve injury Blood clots  
  • Abnormal heartbeat  

Effectiveness   

A peripherally inserted central catheter line is a more comfortable and efficient alternative to receiving multiple needle sticks in cases where frequent blood draws and IV treatments are needed. PICC lines are also associated with lower bloodstream infection rates than central venous catheters, which are inserted into the groin, chest or neck.   

PICC line insertion, among many other procedures, is performed by experienced clinicians at Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute.