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Caring for Your Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC)

This information will help you care for your peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) at home.

A PICC is a long catheter (thin, flexible tube) that is inserted into a vein in your upper arm. It may have up to 3 ends, called lumens, depending on your treatment.

Your PICC can be used to take blood samples, as well as to give you:

• Fluids

• Chemotherapy and other medications

• Blood transfusions

• Intravenous (IV) nutrition

Your PICC can stay in for your entire treatment, up to 12 months. It should not interfere with your normal activities, such as work, school, sexual activity, showering, or mild exercise. However, ask your doctor or nurse about any activities before starting them.

Please note that contrast for a computed tomography (CT) scan can be injected through certain PICCs, such as a Bard® Solo Power PICC. However, contrast cannot be given through other types of PICCs. If you have any questions about your PICC, ask your doctor or nurse.

Having Your PICC Placed

Figure 1. Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC)

Your PICC will be put in by a nurse. You will not need anesthesia (medication to make you sleepy) when you have it put in, but you will be given an injection that will numb the area where the catheter will be inserted. The PICC will be inserted into a vein in your arm, but the end of the PICC will be in your chest, near your heart (see Figure 1). The catheter will be held in place with a sutureless securement device (StatLock®). The exit site (point where the catheter exits your skin) will be covered with a dressing to keep it clean.

Your nurse will teach you how to take care of your catheter, this will minimize your risk for infection. Once a week, you need come to hospital to change the needleless connectors, securement device, and your dressing, as well as flush your catheter.

Caring for Your Exit Site

You may have some bleeding and mild discomfort during the first 24 to 72 hours after your PICC is inserted. If you have any bleeding from the exit site, apply pressure and a cold compress to the area. Call your doctor or nurse if the bleeding and discomfort does not get better after 72 hours, or if it gets worse at any time.

Check your exit site each day for:

• Redness

• Tenderness

• Leakage

• Swelling

• Bleeding

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, call your doctor. You may have an infection.

Do not have any of the following on the arm where your PICC was inserted:

• Needle sticks (such as for blood draws or IV line)

• Blood pressure measurements

• Tight clothing or tourniquets

Caring for Your PICC

• If your catheter is leaking at any time, clamp it above the leak. Call your doctor or nurse immediately. Catheters can often be repaired.

• If you are receiving an infusion at home, and fluid is leaking from your exit site, turn off the infusion and cover the site with sterile gauze.

Guidelines for showering

While your catheter is in place, it is especially important to take good care of your skin to reduce your risk of infection. You can shower with your catheter in place using a one-time-use waterproof cover that goes over your dressing. Each time you shower, cover the Tegaderm CHG dressing completely with a new waterproof cover to protect it from getting wet. Everytime after showering, come back to hospital to take a care for your PICC.

• To put on the waterproof cover, peel off the top and side strips. Place the top edge above your dressing. Smooth it down over your dressing. Do the same for the bottom part of your dressing, making sure that the bottom edge of the waterproof cover is below your dressing. Make sure the lumens of your catheter are tucked into the waterproof cover and completely covered.

• Do not let the tape on the waterproof cover touch the Tegaderm CHG dressing. It can lift your dressing when you remove the waterproof cover after showering.

• Dry the waterproof cover before removing it.

• Do not shower for longer than 15 minutes. Use warm water, not hot water. This will help prevent the waterproof cover from coming off.

• Do not submerge your catheter in water, such as in a bathtub or swimming pool.

• If your dressing gets wet, come to hospital to change it.

Call Your Doctor or Nurse Immediately if You Have:

• A temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher

• Shortness of breath

• A lightheaded or dizzy feeling

• Nausea and vomiting

• Confusion

• Discomfort in your chest

• Swelling in your hand, fingers, upper arm, or neck

• Aching in the arm where your PICC is inserted

• Heart palpitations

• Numbness or tingling in your arm, hands, or fingers of the arm where the PICC line is placed

• Bleeding from the PICC line site

• Redness or warmth at the PICC line site or in the arm with the PICC line


[1]Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Caring for Your Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC).https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/caring-your-peripherally-inserted-central-catheter-picc, 2015-10-29/2017-8-28

[2]Clinical Center National Institudes Of Health. Managing Your Non-Tunneled (Percutaneous) Catheter:PICC,SICC,andJCC.https://cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/pepubs/piccsicc.pdf, 2003-9/ 2017-8-28

[3]Life Changing Medicine. Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC). http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/catheters/Pages/picc.aspx, 2013-4/ 2017-8-28

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