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A central venous catheter (CVC), also called a central line, is a long, thin, flexible tube used to give medicines, fluids, nutrients, or blood products over a long period of time, usually several weeks or more. The catheter makes doing these things more comfortable for you because they are put directly into the catheter. You are not stuck with a needle every time. The catheter may be used to draw blood for tests only if another vein, such as in the hand or arm, can't be used.
The CVC is inserted in your arm, chest, neck, or groin. It is put through the skin and into a large vein. The catheter is threaded through this vein until it reaches a large vein near the heart. In most cases, the other end of the catheter—the end used to give medicines—sticks out of the skin.
Some of the common CVCs that are used outside the hospital or for longer periods of time include:
Once your CVC is in place, you may stay in the hospital to receive your medicines, or you may get your medicines at home.
Possible problems with a central venous catheter include:
Your catheter will be inserted by your doctor. Your doctor may use ultrasound to locate the blood vessel and help with the placement of the catheter.
When you are in the hospital, a nursing team will take care of you and your CVC.
Insertion and care of the CVC
Your nursing team will:
Changing the dressing
Your team will:
If you go home with a CVC, your team will give you detailed instructions on how to care for it. In general:
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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