Why Am I Getting a PICC Line?

We asked Adrienne, an expert nurse educator at the University of Virginia to help us understand better why people get PICC lines. Thanks Adrienne!

There are many reasons why people need to get PICC lines but it all comes down to needing intravenous medications for a several weeks or even months.

PICC stands for Peripherally Inserted Central venous Catheters. These catheters are inserted into your arm with ultrasound guidance. They are small in diameter but extend from the arm through the veins into the heart. This location allows them to stay in place for a long period of time while the size of the catheter makes them comfortable.

When you speak with your doctor about your need for a PICC line they will provide you more specific information. They will give you instructions that you will need to know before the procedure including any alterations to your medication list, what time, and where to report for the insertion procedure.

In general, you can expect to be asked to put on a gown so that your clothes don’t get dirty. They will clean the skin with a disinfecting cleanser and numb the skin where the PICC line will be placed. Throughout this time, the health care provider who is inserting the PICC line will be keeping you in the loop as to what is happening.

You will be sent home with a bandage in place that covers the dressing or bandage. It is very important that the dressing remain intact all the way around the site. It is also important that the dressing stay dry. Your medical team will give you instructions about how frequently to change your PICC line dressing/bandage.

You will want to make sure your PICC line is fully secured so it does not accidently get pulled out or tangled in your clothes or bed sheets when you are sleeping. Also, you will want to make sure you keep your PICC line from getting infected, so make sure you wash your hands frequently and follow all the instructions your team gives you about caring for your PICC line including flushing your PICC line and changing the dressing/bandage.

If you have any questions about your PICC line or if you notice any changes in the appearance of your PICC line, please call your care provider.