What is a PICC Line?

PICCA PICC line is a peripherally inserted central catheter used for various medical purposes.  It consists of a long thin tube being inserted into your upper inside portion of your arm.   You can then deliver fluids and medicines through this port as well as draw blood.   The tube terminates in a large vessel near your heart and at the other end of the tube (the portion coming out of the arm) there is either one or two lumens.  A PICC line can be left in for weeks or months depending on how your body reacts to the PICC.

What is it used for?

PICC_lineA PICC line is used to administer intravenous medicines and other elements that may not be compatible with a normal peripheral IV.  This includes things such at TPN, chemotherapy, prolonged IV antibiotics and other IV medicines.  Whenever prolonged and frequent IV access is required, a doctor may suggest having a PICC line inserted.

How is it inserted?

A PICC line can be placed as an outpatient procedure by either a radiologist or a PICC team.   First the PICC team will use an ultrasound to find the vein they want to access.  Once they have picked the vein, they will swab the area with surgical antiseptic (don’t know what this is actually called) and then numb the area.  The numbing medicine stings badly for about 30 seconds, but after they are done numbing you shouldn’t feel much of anything.  They then insert a needle into the vein and use a cannula to thread the tubing into the arm till the tubing reaches the endpoint.  Next they remove the needle and cannula and secure the PICC line in place.  Overall it is a fairly painless procedure if done correctly and all goes smoothy.


PICC DiagramYou can live a relatively normal life with your PICC line.  You must flush the PICC every twelve hours as well as have the dressing changed at least once a week.   But as far physical activities, there are not many limitations, you are free to live your life as before, as long as you are sure to cover your PICC before getting in the shower!

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