A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) is a long, thin tube that is put through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. This is commonly called a PICC line.
Veins in the Arm
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PICC lines may be used for those who need:
After the PICC line is in, it can be used for weeks to months.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The doctor may meet with you to talk about:
The doctor will give local anesthesia—the area will be numbed.
The staff will place a tight wrap on the arm to slow blood flow. A small incision will be made in the arm. The catheter will be inserted into the vein. An ultrasound image may be used to help place the catheter. The catheter will be sutured or taped in place. Caps will be placed on the end of the catheter. The insertion site will be covered with a bandage.
About 30 minutes
There may be mild discomfort at the insertion site after the procedure. Medicine can help.
The staff may do an x-ray to make sure the catheter is in place. They may give medicines, fluids, or nutrition through the catheter. They may also flush the catheter.
The staff will also take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps that you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
The PICC line will need proper care as advised by the doctor. You will not be able to swim or bathe while the PICC line is in. Some other activities may also be limited.
Call your doctor if you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/central-venous-catheter. Accessed September 10, 2021.
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 September 10, 2021.
Saugel B, Scheeren TWL, et al. Ultrasound-guided central venous catheter placement: a structured review and recommendations for clinical practice. Crit Care. 2017;21(1):225.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 9/9/2021