Why Am I getting a PICC Line?

Why Am I Getting a PICC Line?

October 19, 2015 5 Comments

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.

5 Responses

jackie bettencourt
jackie bettencourt

December 15, 2016

I am looking for any information about side effects of a pic line, also, would it be advisable for vitamin c iv therapy. They are having trouble finding a vein to put the iv in. Having been having the iv therapy for about 8 months, may need it for
another 3-4 months, not really sure how long I will be needing it for. Have been having it twice a week. I had breast cancer, had a lympectomy, but did not choose chemo or radiation, in lieu of that am having the above.
Am very fearful about the pic line.


July 07, 2016

Hi Donna,
We would recommend reaching out to your nurse or doctor immediately as everyone reacts differently to treatment. Try to avoid itching the area so you do not disrupt the picc line site.
the Care+Wear team


July 07, 2016



May 17, 2016

Hi Dale,
Thanks for your question!
We reached out to our advisor, Dr. Gaur, to try to help answer your question. He usually splits up complications into short term (during placement) and long term (weeks to months after). You can usually find this information in an “informed consent” form for a picc line but here is a list below.

Hope this helps! If you need anything else, feel free to email our team directly at wecare@careandwear.com.

Immediate/periprocedural complication(s):
Arterial puncture
If unrecognized may potentially cause
Arterial thrombosis or embolus
Bleeding or hematoma
< 1% risk of significant hemorrhage
Cardiac arrhythmia
May occur during wire or catheter introduction
Malpositioned catheter tip
Nerve injury
More common if brachial venous access attempted
Air embolus
Delayed complication(s):
Venous thrombosis
Thrombosis rates by site of access
Brachial (10%)
Basilic (14%)
Cephalic (57%)
Cardiac arrhythmia
Usually related to malpositioned catheter tip
Excessive length causes atrial arrhythmia
May be localized to insertion site
Occlusion of PICC lumen(s)
May occur if improper flushing regimen
Thrombus from residual blood in lumen
Liquid medications/solutions may solidify
Malpositioned catheter tip
Catheter tip may migrate into brachiocephalic, internal jugular, or azygos veins
Catheter adherent thrombus or fibrin sheath
Large thrombi could potentially embolize
Catheter fracture
May occur during PICC line removal
Broken catheter fragment may embolize centrally
May require foreign body retrieval

Dale Sloan
Dale Sloan

May 16, 2016

I am looking for any information regarding side effects from a medical PICC line. any information is greatly appreciated.

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