Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)

What is a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line)?

Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) Image

A PICC line is a thin, soft, long catheter (tube) that is inserted into a vein in your child's arm, leg or neck. The tip of the catheter is positioned in a large vein that carries blood into the heart. The PICC line is used for long-term intravenous (IV) antibiotics, nutrition or medications, and for blood draws.

How is a PICC line placed?

We will give your child an ultrasound to evaluate the vein where we will insert the PICC line. Then, using live X-ray (fluoroscopy), an interventional radiologist or nurse will insert the PICC line. (Your child will be protected by an X-ray shield.)

Will my child be awake during the procedure?

Younger patients are usually given IV sedation so they aren't awake during the procedure. If the child is older or has medical problems that prevent us from giving IV sedation, we will use only local numbing medicine.

Will my child be in any pain?

If your child is awake, he or she will feel a small needle prick when we inject the local numbing medicine.

How long does the procedure take?

Approximately 30-60 minutes.

What risks are associated with this procedure?

The procedure is considered low-risk. However, potential complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Formation of a blood clot in the vein (thrombosis)
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Puncture of adjacent structures (such as other veins or arteries)
  • Contrast reaction (allergic reaction to the X-ray dye)

How long can a PICC line stay in?

If properly cared for, a PICC line can stay in for weeks to months.

Can my child shower with a PICC line?

We will place gauze and a clear bandage, which must remain dry at all times while the PICC line is in place. Approximately two days after we place the PICC line, a nurse at the hospital or a home-care nurse will change the bandage. After this, it is OK to shower as long as the PICC line is covered with a water-resistant bandage. We will teach you how to make a water-resistant bandage.

You may also sponge bathe your child, as long as you keep the PICC site dry at all times.

Are there any activity restrictions?

Your child will be able to resume most activities, including day care or school. Your child should be discouraged from activities, such as football and rough playing, which may result in a pull to the PICC line and lead to damage or loss of the catheter. If you have questions about which activities are OK, please ask your doctor.