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PICC Line Insertion & Removal

A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line is a long, thin tube that is inserted through the skin into a vein in the arm in the region above the elbow. The catheter is then threaded through the arm vein until it reaches a larger vein just above the heart.

PICC lines can be used for chemotherapy, intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, collecting blood samples for testing and for passing liquid food into the vein.

The procedure for inserting a PICC line is done on an outpatient basis under local anaesthesia. A needle is inserted into the skin above the elbow. While removing the needle, the PICC line is eased through the needle and passed through the vein until it reaches a large vein that leads to your heart. It is then secured in place with a dressing. To check whether the end of the tube is in the correct position, a chest X-ray is taken.

As with all invasive procedures, PICC line insertion may be associated with certain risks and complications including infection, blood clots, air in the line, and a break or cut in the PICC line. Care should be taken while the PICC line is in place to prevent the line from clotting when you are not using it. This is achieved by weekly flushes with fluid once a week to keep it patent. To reduce the risk of infection it is necessary to change the dressing every week.

Similar to insertion, PICC removal is also a simple painless procedure performed on an outpatient basis. The removal process involves gently pulling out of the PICC line, and is usually done by a nurse.

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