A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through or around a central line catheter. A peripherally inserted central catheter is a long, thin tube that is inserted through a vein in the arm. The catheter is threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein close to the heart. Commonly called a PICC line, it is used to deliver medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.
If bacteria start to grow on the central line catheter, they can easily enter the blood and cause a serious infection. This can lead to a condition called sepsis, which occurs when bacteria overwhelm the body. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor right away.
Bacteria normally live on the skin. Since the catheter is inserted through your skin, these bacteria will sometimes track along the outside of the catheter. From the catheter, they can get into your bloodstream.
These factors increase your chances of developing this infection:
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to an infection. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and do a physical exam.
Tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
When you are getting a PICC line placed, the staff will take the following steps to reduce your risk of infection:
After the PICC line is in place, the staff will:
There are also steps that you can take to reduce your risk of infection:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Communicable Disease Control Unit (Manitoba Health)
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 11/30/2012