|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
Central Venous Catheters
Kids hate few things more than being stuck with needles — and kids with cancer usually have to go through this process many times to have blood drawn, to get chemotherapy drugs and other medications, or to receive blood transfusions or fluids.
To eliminate the need for repeated needle sticks in a vein, your doctor may recommend a central venous catheter. A central venous catheter is a surgically placed tube through which doctors can give intravenous (IV) medications and other fluids, as well as draw blood. A catheter can help take away some of the stress associated with treatment and spare kids' veins the damage that can come from frequent sticks. It also can remain in the body for as long as medically necessary.
Types of Catheters
There are a few different types of central venous catheters, but all fall under two main categories: external or subcutaneous (under the skin).
Caring for Catheters
Both types of lines are implanted in an operating room while the patient is under general anesthesia, and afterward they both require some at-home care.
Broviacs and Hickman catheters require more attention than port-a-caths because the tubing remains outside of the body. To prevent infection, the dressing around the tube entry needs to be changed several times a week. If your child develops a fever (a sign of infection), notify your health care provider immediately.
A nurse will make sure you know exactly how to care for the line and what products to use before your child is sent home, so be sure to ask questions if there's anything you don't understand.
Caring for a Broviac and/or Hickman catheter
Caring for a port-a-cath
Finally, be sure your child's teachers, school nurse, and physical education teacher know about the central venous line. They'll not only help ensure your child's safety at school, but also might be able to help your child deal with any related self-esteem issues (for example, having a private place to change clothes for gym class can be a huge deal to a preteen or teen with a line).
Encourage all the adults in your child's life to be sensitive to these self-esteem concerns, even though they might seem like a minor detail in the face of your child's illness.
Reviewed by: Joanne Quillen, MSN, PNP-BC