About PICC Lines

About PICC Lines
About PICC Lines (Image: www.lhsc.on.ca, www.cancerhelp.org.uk, www.opitsourcebook.com)

A PICC line, or Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, has become a valuable medical tool for several reasons--primarily convenience and comfort. A PICC line is an alternative to repeated IV punctures that involves installing a line that stays in the vein until treatment is completed. It is put into place via the use of ultrasound, and requires daily maintenance that is easy to perform, either by the patient's family or other caregivers. It reduces the risk of infection and of introducing air into the lung. A PICC line may be used temporarily, or may remain in place for a year or more.


The PICC line is a significant advancement because it allows a patient to be treated at home, by family or by a visiting professional, instead of remaining in or returning to the hospital for all intravenous-type procedures. It also makes the entire process of ongoing IV therapy much easier for the person who is administering it. A PICC line is also much more patient-friendly, because it necessitates only one IV insertion, rather than repeated ones. It makes several procedures much simpler, including the administering of IV drugs and fluids, chemotherapy, total parenteral nutrition and blood-sample collection.


A PICC enables IV liquids to be injected directly into the area near the heart. It does so by way of the PICC line, which is put in place in a medical setting, usually a hospital. The PICC line is placed into a vein leading from the arm up to the heart. It remains there for the course of treatment. The patient then has much greater freedom of movement, and the liquids administered go directly to the heart, where they are dispersed throughout the body much more quickly than with a normal IV injection.



The usual types of PICC lines are the single- and multi-lumen. The single is the simpler form; the multi allows the simultaneous administration of multiple medications that might otherwise be incompatible in the same IV. The midline catheter is a similar device; however, it usually only branches from the elbow area to a vein in the shoulder. The PICC is similar to the midline catheter, and each has its own, individual use; however, the PICC is more adaptible to a wide spectrum of purposes.



PICC placement is difficult if there is limited access to the patient's upper arms, or if shes has venous thrombosis. Either of these situations may be overcome by using fluoroscopy instead of ultrasound. PICCs should only be used for regularly scheduled access, and not for intermittent situations or for blood sampling. Also, PICC lines should not be used in the treatment of end-stage kidney disease or kidney failure.


PICC lines are not perfect. Even a perfectly placed PICC can result in situations that require its removal. Some of these problems include the creation of an air embolism, an arterial puncture, infection of the site, rejection of the line by the body, nerve injury or irritation along the line, irregular heart beat because of irritation, movement of the catheter (causing bad placement or knotting of the line), bruising (hematoma) or a blood clot.

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