A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) infection is a serious infection. The infection happens in the bloodstream. It affects those with a central line catheter. A PICC is a long tube inserted through a vein in the arm. It is commonly called a PICC line. It is used to give medicine, nutrition, IV fluids, and chemotherapy.
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A PICC infection can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.
A PICC infection is caused by bacteria on a central line catheter. From the catheter, they can get into the bloodstream. This can happen from bacteria that normally live on the skin.
Things that raise the risk of PICC infection are:
- Severe illness
- A weak immune system
- An infection elsewhere in the body or skin
- Long time use of a catheter (more than 48 hours)
- Problems with the catheter
- A catheter that is not coated with an anti-germ substance
Symptoms of a PICC infection may include:
- Fast heart rate
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness at the catheter site
- Drainage from the catheter site
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.
Tests will be done to diagnose the infection. They may include:
- Blood tests
The goal is to clear the infection. This involves:
- Antibiotics—medicines to treat the infection
- Central line care—often, removing the PICC line and replacing it with a new one
Proper catheter care and cleaning can help reduce the risk of a PICC infection.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Canadian Patient Safety Institute
Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/HAI/bsi/bsi.html . Accessed March 2, 2018.
Central venous catheter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/central-venous-catheter. Accessed September 14, 2021.
Central venous catheter. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/central-venous-catheter.pdf. Accessed September 14, 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: 9/14/2021