Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC Line)
What Are PICC Lines?
A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) is a type of central
line. A central line (also called a central venous catheter)
is like an intravenous (IV) line.
But it is much longer than a regular IV and goes all the way up to a vein near the
heart or just inside the heart. The other
end of the PICC line stays outside of the body, usually where the arm bends. It may
divide into more than one line. The end of each line is covered with a cap.
A patient can get medicine, fluids, blood, or nutrition through a PICC line. It
also can be used to draw blood.
Why Is a PICC Line Used Instead of a Regular IV (Intravenous) Line?
A PICC line is thicker and more durable than a regular IV. It's also much longer
and goes farther into the vein. Doctors use a PICC line instead of a regular IV line
It can stay in place longer (up to 3 months and sometimes a bit more).
It lowers the number of needle sticks a child needs for blood draws.
Patients can get large amounts of fluids or medicines (like chemotherapy)
that might not go through regular IVs.
A PICC line can help someone:
with a serious infection so they can get IV
for a few weeks
with cancer so they can get chemotherapy
and blood tests through the line
Doctors place PICC lines in an operating room, intensive care unit, or interventional
radiology suite. The patient is sedated (given medicine to relax) or gets general
anesthesia (to go to sleep)
so they won't feel pain.
To place the line, a doctor will:
Clean and numb the skin where the PICC line goes in.
Put the PICC line into a vein (usually a vein where the arm bends) using ultrasound
to guide where the line goes.
Thread the PICC line up to a large vein near heart.
Check the placement of the PICC line with an X-ray.
Place a dressing (bandage) over the PICC line.
Putting in a PICC line takes about 15–20 minutes.
Are There Any Risks to a PICC Line?
Most of the time, there are no problems with a PICC line. If problems do happen,
it is usually because the line gets infected or stops working. Very rarely, a PICC
line can cause a blood clot. Doctors review the risks with families before placing
the PICC line.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Check the PICC line area every day and call the doctor right away
The line comes out or gets blocked (can't be flushed).
How Can Parents Help?
At home, a child's PICC line needs special care to prevent infection and keep it
working well. It's normal to feel a little bit nervous caring for the PICC line at
first, but soon you'll feel more comfortable. You'll get supplies to use at home,
and a visiting nurse may come to help you when you first get home.
Before your child goes home, ask your health care team:
how often to change the dressing
when and how to flush the line
what to do if the line gets blocked or comes out
how to give medicines through the line (if you will be giving medicines at home)
if the line has caps, how often to change them
which physical activities are OK for your child (most kids need to avoid rough
play and contact sports)
if any special care is needed to protect the line while your child bathes
what signs of infection to watch for
Tell your child's teachers, school nurse, counselor, and physical education teacher
about the PICC line. They can make sure your child avoids any activities that may
damage the line, and help support your child during treatment.