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Updated on February 27, 2020

What is a Central Venous Catheter?

Central Venous Catheter is a tube which is passed through a vein to reach the thoracic (chest) portion of the Vena Cava (the large vein returning blood to the heart) or into the heart.  The Central Venous Catheter is usually inserted for weeks to months to avoid the need for repeated needle insertion or injections.  They are used for a variety of different reasons such as;

  • Administration of strong solutions (such as chemotherapy)
  • Administration of drugs or medicines (over long period of time)
  • Supportive therapy such as giving blood transfusion or Total Parental Nutrition (TPN)
  • Getting treatment at home

There are several types of Central Venous Catheter;

1. Peripheral Inserted Central Venous Catheter (PICC)

A needle is used to put the PICC line into a vein in the arm, and the catheter (or line) is threaded through the needle to end in a large vein in the chest near the heart.

2. Chemoport

Ports are permanently placed under the skin of the chest or arm during surgery. The drum has a silicone septum (self-sealing membrane) across the top and special needles are stuck through the skin into the septum to use the port.

3. Hickman’s Catheter

Care of the Central Venous Catheter

It is important to take good care of the Catheter because there is a risk of getting an infection.  Avoid vigorous activities such as contact sports or swimming.

The catheter site should be cleaned and the dressing changed at least once a week to prevent infection.  The cleaning can be done by nurses at the hospital or caregivers at home.  The caregivers can learn to perform the cleaning after evaluation by the nurses.

The catheter has to be flushed with an anticoagulant at least twice a week by nurses to reduce the risk of catheter blockage.

Observe for any signs of complications and see your doctor as soon as possible.  These signs include

  • Redness, pain or swelling around the catheter site
  • Pain or tenderness along the path of the catheter
  • Drainage from the skin around the catheter
  • Sudden fever, chills or rigors
  • Bleeding at site or along the catheter
  • Catheter falling out
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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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