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Tunnelled Catheter: Before Your Procedure

What is tunnelled catheter placement?

A tunnelled catheter is a soft, flexible tube that runs under your skin. The tube enters from a vein in your chest, neck, or groin and is threaded into to a large vein near your heart. One end of the tube stays outside the body. This catheter is a type of central venous line. You may have it for weeks, months, or longer.

You can get medicine, blood products, nutrients, or fluids through the catheter, which makes it more comfortable for you because you do not need to be poked with a needle every time. The catheter may also be used to draw blood for tests only if another vein, such as in the hand or arm, can't be used.

Your doctor may give you medicine to make you sleep or feel relaxed. Two small cuts (incisions) are made in your body. Your doctor will thread the catheter into a vein.

After the procedure, you will probably have small bandages where the doctor put in the tube and where it comes out of your body. The area may feel sore for a few days. You may have stitches. Sometimes glue is used instead of stitches.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Medicines you get during the procedure will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor all the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of your procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital

  • Bring a picture ID and Alberta Personal Health Care card.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your healthcare team. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The procedure will take about 1 hour.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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