Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
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A central catheter is a long, thin tube that is inserted into a large vein. A central catheter is used to deliver medication, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.
There are different types of central catheters:
A peripherally inserted central catheter is threaded through a vein in the arm.
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Central catheters are inserted when patients need:
A central catheter is commonly inserted by special types of doctors called interventional radiologists or vascular surgeons. Once the line is in, it can be used for weeks to months.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
You will be given a local anesthetic at the insertion area. Depending on where your central catheter is placed, you may receive a sedative through an IV.
This procedure may be done while you are in the hospital as part of your treatment or in an outpatient setting. If you are already in the hospital for another reason, this procedure is unlikely to extend your stay.
Having a catheter inserted increases your risk of a bloodstream infection. The hospital staff will begin the procedure by following steps to reduce this risk.
The procedure may differ depending on the type of catheter and the insertion site. In general, the staff will:
If you have a port inserted, a small pocket for the port will be created under your skin. The incision will be closed over the pocket, usually with dissolving sutures.
You will be checked for bleeding, drainage, and bruising at the insertion site.
During the procedure, you will not feel any pain because of the anesthetic. There may be mild discomfort at the insertion site after the procedure.
This procedure is most commonly done in a hospital setting because it is needed for your treatment. The length of stay will depend on the reason you need the central catheter. If you are an outpatient receiving treatment through your central catheter, you may be sent home the same day as the procedure.
After the procedure, the staff may provide the following care to help you recover:
There are also steps that you can take to reduce your risk of infection:
Do not swim or bathe while the central line is in place. Check the insertion site daily for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling and pain. Report any changes to your doctor.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T146372/Central-venous-catheter. Updated October 25, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2018.
FAQs: Catheter-associated bloodstream infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/bsi/BSI_tagged.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2018.
Vascular access procedures. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=vasc_access. Updated May 1, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2018.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 5/11/2013