About PICCs (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters)


  • What is a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter?
  • Benefits of using a PICC
  • What you may encounter during or after placement
  • Problem signs to watch for after insertion
  • Protecting your PICC
  • What is a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter?

    A PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) is a long, soft, flexible tube. Typically, it is inserted in a peripheral vein (cephalic vein, basilic vein or, brachial vein) in the arm. The line is then advanced toward the heart through increasingly larger veins. The insertable portion of a PICC varies from 25 to 60 cm in length.

    PICCs provide access to the bloodstream to deliver medications, other treatments, or blood draws to patients. PICCs provide bloodstream access to treat several diseases such as Cancer, Diabetes, Lyme Disease, as well as other chronic illnesses.

    A clinician that inserts PICCs is called a PICC specialist. The clinician could be a physician, physician assistant, radiologist assistant, respiratory therapist, or nurse practitioner. Following insertion, a fluoroscopy (continuous x-ray image) is given to ensure the correct positioning of the PICC.

    About PICCs and the Care+Wear PICC Line Cover
    Photo credit: St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital

    PICCs are used for both inpatient and outpatient care and can remain in position for extended periods, from several days up to generally 18 months.

    The versatility of PICCs has led to their increased use in administering short-and-long-term antibiotic IV antibiotic treatment, drawing blood/blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and TPN nutrition.

    Are you wondering what patients and caretakers discuss and think about before utilizing a PICC line? We’ve compiled the most common considerations.

    Benefits of using a PICC

    It is more comfortable compared with the many “needle sticks” that would be required for giving medications and drawing blood. The goal is to spare one’s veins and blood vessels from the irritating effects of IV medications. A PICC can be used in the hospital setting, nursing facility, or at home and can stay in place for weeks up to 18 months, where it can be used for multiple treatments as well as to draw blood.

    What you may encounter during or after placement

    One may experience discomfort during the procedure (inserting the PICC line). Bleeding may occur at the insertion site as well as leakage caused by skin elasticity, outward line migration, or line rupture. In addition, it may be necessary to attempt the PICC line placement more than once as it may move out of position and need to be further secured. Although rare, the accidental puncture of an artery, nerve, or tendon near the insertion site can occur. Clots, vein inflammation, and infection are also additional considerations upon receiving a PICC line:

    • A clot may form around the catheter in the vein (thrombosis), which can cause swelling and pain in the arm.
    • Inflammation in a vein (phlebitis) can develop from the use of all types of IVs, including PICCs.
    • An infection may occur at the insertion site or in the bloodstream. An estimated 8-25% of all PICC lines become infected and can lead to complications and increased mortality rates.

    Problem signs to watch for after insertion

    Call your healthcare provider or PICC line care provider immediately if you notice these signs or have any concerns:

    • Pain, swelling, redness, red streaking, hot or hard area in the welling the hand, arm, and neck on the same side as the PICC line
    • Fever or chills
    • Leaking of fluid when catheter is flushed 

      Protecting your PICC

      Avoiding infection is key. Protecting your PICC line with an antimicrobial fabric helps to prevent infection. Breathability and visibility around the insertion site are also key factors in protecting your PICC. This allows both patients and caretakers to view the site and check for infection and leakage. The PICC line can also come out of position, partially or wholly, if not well-secured and completely covered. To help patients protect their PICC site, we developed the Care+Wear Long Ultra-Soft PICC Line Sleeve.

        More information from our Community on PICCs

        1. Customer Spotlight: Powering Through Chronic Illness with Caleigh
        2. Learn More about the Different Types of IV Antibiotics
        3. The Ultimate Lyme Disease Gift Guide
        4. Traveling with Chronic Illness? Our Medical Expert shares this Quick Checklist
        5. Finding Freedom: My Cancer Journey and my PICC
        6. Why Am I Getting a PICC Line


        Leave a comment (all fields required)

        Comments will be approved before showing up.