How to Measure a PICC Line With Dressing Change

A PICC line is placed for ongoing administration of medication.
A PICC line is placed for ongoing administration of medication. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

A PICC line -- peripherally inserted central catheter -- is inserted into a vein in the arm and threaded through the chest until it reaches a large vein near the heart. A PICC line is used to deliver intravenous drugs such as antibiotics and chemotherapy over a period of weeks or months. It eliminates the need for multiple needlesticks and allows drug therapy to continue at home. Follow several steps to measure the length of the external portion of the PICC line with each dressing change to monitor for migration. Increased length can indicate that the PICC line is coming out.

Things You'll Need

  • Sterile gloves
  • Tape measure
  • Sterile gauze
  • Medical tape

Wash your hands with soap and water. Put on a pair of sterile gloves. Gently remove the dressing from the PICC line insertion site.

Hold the external PICC line and find the notch marks running along the thinnest part of the tube. These are placed 1 cm apart.

Count and record the number of exposed notch marks. If the tube does not have notches, use a tape measure to assess the length of the external tubing. Compare this number to the baseline measurement taken at the time of PICC line placement.

Cover the PICC site with sterile gauze and tape in place. Change the dressing daily and record the tube length each time. Notify your doctor immediately if the length changes, as the tube might have migrated.

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