What is a PICC line?

We had a great blog post on this subject. Often times, patients are given a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line to help access the blood stream. They can be used in a variety of circumstances, including used in treatments for Cancer, Diabetes, Lyme Disease and TPN.


A PICC line is inserted in a peripheral vein in the arm, such as the cephalic vein, basilic vein or brachial vein, and then advanced proximally toward the heart through increasingly larger veins, until the tip rests in the distal superior vena cava or cavoatrial junction.


PICC lines are usually inserted by physicians, physician assistants (in the US), radiologist assistants (in the US,) respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, or specially trained certified registered nurses and radiologic technologists using ultrasound, chest radiographs, and fluoroscopy to aid in their insertion and to confirm the placement of the line.



The insertable portion of a PICC varies from 25 to 60 cm in length, that being adequate to reach the desired tip position in most patients. Some lines are designed to be trimmed to the desired length before insertion; others are simply inserted to the needed depth with the excess left outside.


PICC lines can remain in position for extended periods of time, from several days to years on end. They are used in both the hospital and community settings. The versatility of PICC lines has led to their increased use (e.g., administering antibiotics, drawing blood/blood transfusions, chemotherapy, prolonged IV antibiotic treatment, and TPN nutrition).



What are some of the benefits of using a PICC line?

  • A PICC is more comfortable compared with the many “needle sticks” that would have been needed for giving medications and drawing blood. The goal is to spare your veins from these frequent “needle sticks.”
  • A PICC can also spare your 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 or months, if needed.
  • A PICC can be used for many types of IV treatments.
  • A PICC can be used to obtain most blood tests.

What are some of the risks of a PICC line (both during and after placement)?

  • There may be slight discomfort during the procedure.
  • Bleeding may occur at the insertion site.
  • Leakage can occur due to skin elasticity, outward line migration, or line rupture
  • It is sometimes necessary to attempt more than once and it may not be possible to insert the entire length of the PICC.
  • During insertion of a PICC, accidental puncture of an artery, nerve, or tendon can occur near the insertion site. However, this is a rare event.
  • 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. In fact, an estimated 8-25% of all PICC lines that are installed become infected and can lead to complications and increased mortality rates.
  • The PICC can come out, partially or completely, if not well-secured and completely covered.
  • The PICC can move out of position in the vein and may need to be removed or repositioned.
  • The PICC may become blocked. Medication may need to be used to clear it.

What are signs to watch for?

Watch for these signs:

  • Swelling, redness, red streaking, hot or hard area in PICC line arm
  • Pain in PICC line arm
  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling of the hand, arm and/ or neck on the same side as the PICC line.
  • Leaking of fluid when you flush the catheter

Call your healthcare provider or PICC line care provider right away if you notice these signs or if you are worried or concerned.

We created the Ultra-Soft PICC line cover to help patients who have a PICC line. Our PICC line covers are made of anti-microbial fabric, are machine washable, and provide a unique, breathable mesh window to allow air circulation over the PICC line and visibility to the insertion site.   Our PICC line covers help eliminate some of the challenges of having a PICC line by making it easier to securely and healthily cover the line without having to worry about exposure to outside agents or low quality materials. Let’s get back to living!