PICC line placement

What is a PICC line?

A PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) is a central catheter inserted into a vein in the arm. A PICC line allows for long-term and/or prolonged access to the veins for people who need IV medication often or for longer periods of time. Without a PICC line, you would need multiple IVs which could harden the veins, making them harder to puncture.

Illustration PICC line

What to expect?

A PICC line is placed by an interventional radiologist using a local anesthetic. The line is placed using an ultrasound. Then its position is verified using an x-ray. The visible part of the line will then be attached to the skin using an adhesive bandaid. The procedure will take approximately 30 minutes to an hour. A PICC line can remain in place for up to 6 to 12 months.

What are the potential risks and complications?

You may experience discomfort for one or two days once the anesthesia has worn off.

Please make sure you practice proper PICC line care. Make sure that the catheter does not clog. This could be caused by a blood clot (thrombosis). Contact your hospital immediately if you notice a blockage in your line. 

Catheter placement is a routine procedure. Complications arise in rare cases, directly after the procedure or when placed for a longer period of time. 

After treatment, you may experience:

  • blood loss in the area of the catheter;
  • hematoma;
  • pain in the area of the catheter;
  • infection.

The following long-term PICC line complications may occur:

  • infection in the area surrounding the catheter;
  • bloodstream infection if bacteria enter the bloodstream through the catheter;
  • blood clots in the vein in which the PICC line was inserted.